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Confidentiality

We take your rights to confidentiality and privacy very seriously. Records of your visits to the Student Counseling Service are never released to anyone on or off campus without your written permission, except under unusual circumstances which are outlined below. This means that apart from these unique circumstances, no information shared by the student will be disclosed to faculty and staff members, administrators, parents, other students, or anyone else. No counseling information is included in a student’s academic record, and when students leave Downstate, their participation in counseling remains private.

Here are the most common cases in which confidentiality is not protected by law:
Psychologists and other mental health professionals have a legal and ethical duty to protect patient confidentiality; however, they also have a duty under the law to the courts and to the wider community, particularly when there is harm, threat of harm, or neglect.

  • If you make a serious threat to harm yourself or another person, the law requires your counselor to act to protect you or that other person. This could include contacting emergency personnel, a friend, a family member or appropriate University staff. In certain clinical situations this also may involve involuntary hospitalization or referral for additional clinical services.
  • Please note that as of March 2013, Student Counseling is required to comply with the NYS SAFE Act. This law requires mental health professionals to inform the County Director of Community Services if you are likely to engage in conduct that will result in serious harm to self or others. If we determine that you are in imminent danger of seriously hurting yourself or someone else, we will alert the Kings County Director of Community Services and provide him/her with your name, contact information, and diagnosis(es). This individual then may be required to inform the NY Department of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS), which would determine whether you have a gun permit, and if so, take steps to remove your firearms. This law can also prevent you from obtaining a gun permit for five years following a report to the DCJS.
  • If in the course of working with you the therapist learns that a child has been or will be abused or neglected, we are legally required to report this to the appropriate authorities.
  • If you are involved in a court case, either as plaintiff or defendant, the court may order the mental health professional to provide his/her records. In such cases, Student Counseling would be required to release your record, with or without your consent. A common scenario in which this occurs is divorce or child custody hearings.  Please consult your lawyer about these issues.

Special Note: Some employers or agencies may ask if you have been in counseling or psychotherapy on their application forms. If you tell these agencies that you have received such services, they may request permission to review your mental health record. Even so, mental health professionals cannot release this information unless you provide written permission to release that information.

Effective counseling requires an atmosphere of trust. If students have any questions about confidentiality, they are encouraged to raise them at the beginning of their first meeting.

Eligibility

As part of the Student Health Service, all matriculated Downstate students (College of Medicine, Nursing, Health Related Professions, School of Graduate Studies and the Master of Public Health Program) are eligible for free and confidential counseling and psychological services at the SCS.