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Illinois Bill Would Require Mental Health Records to be Released to Coroners

Updated: Wednesday, May 21 2014, 03:39 PM CDT

In a death investigation the first few hours and days are critical,
but confusion regarding a state law often means coroners aren't always getting
the information needed to determine how someone died.

"Time is of the essence and the faster we get the
information, maybe a statement from a witness or piece together a part of the
puzzle we're not sure of yet but we have to have all the information to be able
to do that," Sangamon County Undersheriff Jack Campbell said.

A major piece of the puzzle comes from the coroner's office.
The coroner will determine cause and manner of death, and to make those determinations
the coroner needs to understand a victim's mindset at the time of their death.

"Medical records and their health history is very
important but psychiatric history is important as did they live
their lives, their addictions, if they had any mental illnesses, etc,"
Sangamon County Coroner Cinda Edwards said.

Edwards says suicides are a common determination in death
investigations. Right now, Illinois law says healthcare providers may release
mental health information to a coroner. A house bill would clarify the law to
say providers will release that information.

Locally, Edwards says she has little trouble getting these
records, but it's important to make this clarification as soon as possible.

"While I haven't had problems, that doesn't mean other
coroners haven't had problems and that doesn't mean that maybe down the road I
wouldn't have problems," Edwards said.

ABC NewsChannel 20 also spoke with Champaign County Coroner Dwuane
Northrup who said he has run into issues getting mental health records.

The bill has already made it through the house but hasn't
reached a vote in the senate. The bill was filed by Normal republican Representative
Dan Brady. The senate could vote on the bill as soon as tomorrow.

Illinois Bill Would Require Mental Health Records to be Released to Coroners

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