DENVER — Colorado mental health providers would get expanded authority to report threats to places like movie theaters and schools under a bill given initial approval in the state House on Wednesday.
The proposal is a response to the Aurora movie theater shooting, Democratic Rep. Jovan Melton said.
Currently, mental health professionals have a duty to report threats directed at specific persons. But it's unclear if the same duty applies when a threat is directed at a location.
"So therefore if I'm a therapist and I have a patient that says, 'I'm going to harm my neighbor Bob,' I have a duty to notify Bob and also law enforcement," Melton, who represents Aurora, told lawmakers. "But if that same patient comes and says, 'I'm going to hurt a movie theater,' or, 'I'm going to shot at a school,' there's little that I can do. It's unclear based on our current statute."
The House advanced the bill Wednesday on a voice vote without anyone speaking against it. A final vote will refer the bill to the Senate.
Melton said that after the 2012 theater shooting, in which 12 people were killed and dozens injured, legislators found that the therapist treating James Holmes, the suspect, may not have been able to say anything about a threat to the theater if Holmes had expressed his intent. Melton noted that it's still unclear what Holmes actually said to his therapist.
Melton said expanding the reporting authority of mental health professionals is a matter of public safety.
"So therefore if a threat is made toward one of our schools, or a theater, or some other public place, the therapist will then be able to have the tools to work with law enforcement and really protect our public interests and public safety," he said.