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‘Duty to Warn’ focus of educational forum


Safety net providers, law enforcement agencies, educators and healthcare professionals from across the region participated in a forum focusing on the importance of “Duty to Warn.” The educational session was hosted by Citizen Advocates’ Professional Development department.

Duty to Warn is a responsibility of behavioral healthcare professionals and others to disclose specific information in extraordinary circumstances, mostly related to when they feel someone poses a serious threat to the health or safety of themselves or others.

In the wake of recent events involving violence in our communities, Citizen Advocates recognized a need to provide education on the importance of Duty to Warn.  With strong support from Suzanne Lavigne, Director of Community Services for Franklin County, Citizen Advocates organized an educational forum on this very important topic.  Based on our shared commitment to community advocacy, the forum was made available to community providers free of charge.  It is during these times that our strength as a community is demonstrated.

The presentation was given by Margaret Surowka, Special Counsel and Co-Chair of the Health Care Service Team at Barclay Damon LLP, who has over three decades of legal experience, with a focus on healthcare, labor and employment.  In addition to her professional experience, she has been an invited speaker for a variety of advocacy and professional groups with a focus on topics related to healthcare and employment.

“In the aftermath of violent or disturbing events, it is often realized that there were red flags or clues along the way that hinted at what was going to happen,” said Krista Bartlett, Chief Human Resources Officer for Citizen Advocates. “When those signs are missed, it’s not because those who saw them didn’t want to help – in many cases we don’t know how to evaluate the information and what to do when it rises to the level of serious concern.”

The virtual session was attended by over 70 professionals representing a variety of backgrounds.  After a brief overview, the presentation focused on the obligations associated with Duty to Warn when threats to health and safety are detected, and the narrow instances in which such a duty applies.  Many participants presented real life examples and experiences, with discussion to provide a clear understanding of the provider’s responsibilities.

“In these situations, it is natural to look for signs we may have missed that led up to tragic events and question if it could have been prevented”, said Amanda Tagliarino, Director of Professional Development for Citizen Advocates.  “This is why it is so important that we educate ourselves on what to look for and what to do when we’re concerned.  In doing so, we can begin to get a handle on the things that feel out of our control.”

For those unable to attend the event, a recording is available.  For access to the recording, or to discuss additional learning and training opportunities, please reach out to Amanda Tagliarino by email or by calling 518-578-0557.