Anthrax and 42 CFR Part 2

Turns out that the alleged anthrax killer had a substance abuse counselor. (Though she wasn’t exactly a poster child for the profession–she had a 2007 OUIL.)

This story raises a very interesting point. If my understanding of 42 CFR Part 2 is correct, there is no “duty to warn” provision in the law. This being the case, the recommended practice is to make a non-disclosing report–an anonymous report that does not explicitly or implicitly identify the client as a recipient of addiction treatment services. (More info here.)

Clearly, this is a case where a worker (or agency) has to imagine his or herself on the witness stand defending a decision to disclose (or not to disclose). If you believe that a guy is going to kill his co-workers you want to report it in a way that assures the police will intervene and take it seriously.

The story, as told in the Washington Post, which may, or may not, be 100% accurate, raises a few questions about whether the situation could have been handled better:

  • She waited overnight. Should she have made the report sooner?
  • Was a supervisor or the agency director involved?
  • Did she identify herself as an addiction counselor or calling from an agency that provides addiction treatment services?
  • Should she have made the call from a non-agency phone? Does making the call from an agency phone turn, an otherwise non-disclosing report, into a disclosing report?

Just to be clear, I’m not criticizing her. It’s just a good opportunity to brush up on the law and learn from an actual case.