NH courts limited in what mental health information they share

While some New Hampshire lawmakers and mental health advocates say the courts should be the ones to report mental health information to a national database used for gun background checks, court officials say there are limitations to what they can report.The issue of mental health information being shared during the background check process has been raised in the wake of a fatal shooting at New Hampshire Hospital last month. The suspected shooter previously had been a resident of the facility.News 9 Investigates has been looking into whether mental health information, including involuntary commitments, is reported to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, which is used for gun purchase background checks.Some have said that the courts should be required to report that information, but judicial branch officials said that currently, the courts only report civil protective orders to NICS. That includes orders related to domestic violence, stalking, abuse and neglect.The courts are not allowed to report if someone has been involuntarily committed to a mental health facility because, under state law, those are supposed to be closed hearings.Even if federal law might suggest something, the courts can’t presume they can do it without more authorization from the state, officials said. In order to do that reporting, the courts would need the legislature to give them relief from confidentiality.”The judicial branch stands ready to work with the other branches to provide any technical assistance to legislators and other officials as they consider changes to reporting requirements resulting from mental health adjudications,” said Av Harris, spokesman for the judicial branch. “We will work collaboratively within the law to implement any changes.”The courts send all criminal dispositions to the Department of Safety, which has declined to tell News 9 what information they have access to or send to NICS.

While some New Hampshire lawmakers and mental health advocates say the courts should be the ones to report mental health information to a national database used for gun background checks, court officials say there are limitations to what they can report.

The issue of mental health information being shared during the background check process has been raised in the wake of a fatal shooting at New Hampshire Hospital last month. The suspected shooter previously had been a resident of the facility.

News 9 Investigates has been looking into whether mental health information, including involuntary commitments, is reported to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, which is used for gun purchase background checks.

Some have said that the courts should be required to report that information, but judicial branch officials said that currently, the courts only report civil protective orders to NICS. That includes orders related to domestic violence, stalking, abuse and neglect.

The courts are not allowed to report if someone has been involuntarily committed to a mental health facility because, under state law, those are supposed to be closed hearings.

Even if federal law might suggest something, the courts can’t presume they can do it without more authorization from the state, officials said. In order to do that reporting, the courts would need the legislature to give them relief from confidentiality.

“The judicial branch stands ready to work with the other branches to provide any technical assistance to legislators and other officials as they consider changes to reporting requirements resulting from mental health adjudications,” said Av Harris, spokesman for the judicial branch. “We will work collaboratively within the law to implement any changes.”

The courts send all criminal dispositions to the Department of Safety, which has declined to tell News 9 what information they have access to or send to NICS.

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