BOSTON, Mass.—Fenway Health denounced HB 1840, a Tennessee bill signed Wednesday, April 27 by Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam, which allows therapists and counselors to refuse mental health treatment to patients based on the counselor’s “sincerely held principles.” Under this law, mental health professionals could discriminate against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) patients without any legal repercussions.
“This new law directly contradicts the American Counseling Association’s code of ethics, which states that mental health professionals cannot refuse treatment based on ‘personally held values, attitudes, beliefs and behaviors,’” said Stephen Boswell, MD, FACP, President and CEO, Fenway Health, and Professor at Harvard Medical School. “If enacted into law, this bill would also undermine ongoing efforts under way at the federal level and in many states, including Tennessee, to address disparities faced by LGBT Americans in health care.”
Numerous studies cited by Healthy People 2020, an initiative of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to
improve public health outcomes, have shown that LGBT people experience higher rates of depression, anxiety, and suicidality compared to heterosexual people, and that they also face many barriers to accessing affirming and culturally competent mental health care and substance use treatment.
“This bill is unethical and could have a detrimental effect on the health and well-being of the LGBT citizens of Tennessee,” Boswell added. “It would also undermine education and training efforts to improve medical care and behavioral health care for LGBT people across the United States that have the support of leading mental health associations, the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Medical Colleges, the American College of Physicians, and other organizations.”
About Fenway Health
Since 1971, Fenway Health has been working to make life healthier for the people in our neighborhood, the LGBT community, people living with HIV/AIDS and the broader population. The Fenway Institute at Fenway Health is an interdisciplinary center for research, training, education and policy development focusing on national and international health issues. Fenway’s Sidney Borum Jr. Health Center cares for youth and young adults ages 12 to 29 who may not feel comfortable going anywhere else, including those who are LGBT or just figuring things out; homeless; struggling with substance use; or living with HIV/AIDS. In 2013, AIDS Action Committee of Massachusetts joined the Fenway Health family, allowing both organizations to improve delivery of care and services across the state and beyond.
[From a News Release]