The state House has proposed tougher controls on the handling of police reports on suicide attempts and sex crimes.
Representative Genise Montecillo (D-Montecillo) told fellow lawmakers that after she attempted suicide last year, St. Louis County Police notified the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The paper reported it and that’s how her son learned of the attempt.
Her bill would specify that reports related to suicides and attempts, and rape or other sex crimes, would not be released except for law enforcement purposes or at the request of the victim or victim’s family.
“My sole purpose is to prevent this from happening to anyone else so individuals feel safe and know when they call 911 for help, that information – that medical information – will be protected, that their privacy will be protected,” said Montecillo.
“It wasn’t until days after my suicide attempt before I realized, despite all of the assurances of first responders including those law enforcement to the contrary, that my HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) rights were not protected under the law,” said Montecillo. “How my attempt was handled by law enforcement and one rogue reporter and newspaper will potentially discourage others from picking up the phone for help because that confidentiality was broken.”
Representative Galen Higdon (R-St. Joseph), a former sheriff’s deputy, supports the change.
“I was appalled when the lady first approached us early this year with this story. I was like, ‘No, no, no, no. Law enforcement does not release the information of victims. She proved me wrong,” said Higdon. “I went back and I looked, and there’s no prohibition – there’s no law that prohibits – it was just standard operating procedures that we did not release this information.”
The Missouri Press Association opposed the bill, saying it could limit the freedom of the press and prevent the transfer of information between government agencies.
The bill cleared the House 126-9 and goes to the Senate with two weeks left in the legislative session.