An individual with a mental illness that interferes with judgment, self-interest, self-preservation, and safety represents a profound challenge for families and clinicians. Privacy laws like HIPAA and FERPA that limit communication and liberty laws that assert individual choice began as patient protections. However, these often become rigid rules and procedures that can exceed patient needs and even common sense. Good intentions spawned these laws, but in practice they can interfere with or delay the delivery of necessary care and crucial communication between caregivers and families. How can a coalition of consumers, family members, advocates and professionals agree upon and pursue clear goals and specific plans that can ‘open closed doors’ in the areas of privacy and liberty? In so doing, how can we improve the lives of people with mental illness, their families, and their communities?
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