Family Says Home for Mental Health Patients Failed to Notify About Man's Disappearance

Family Says Home for Mental Health Patients Failed to Notify About Man's Disappearance
Posted on Jul 15 2021
NBC 4 Washington

A 56-year-old man missing for weeks after walking away from a community-based home for mental health patients was found sleeping on the streets of D.C. His family said it was two weeks before they were told he had left the home. His family was not contacted, but a supervisor at the home told them a police report was filed. “Treatment providers assuming that they can't communicate with families is a very big problem,” said Ron Honberg, retired director of legal affairs for NAMI. Honberg, an expert in mental health law, says sometimes homes misinterpret HIPAA. Often, the assumption is contacting family in these situations violates patient rights, but Honberg says that's not HIPAA's intention. “Those are the times when people are most vulnerable and those are the times people need compassionate assistance the most,” he said. “And yet laws are interpreted in a way that serves as bars to providing that kind of compassion and assistance. It's a real a tragedy.”