Testimony on H.B. 5448: An Act Concerning A Risk Protection Order Or Warrant

Judiciary Committee

March 13, 2020

Submitted By: Stephen Wanczyk-Karp, LMSW

The National Association of Social Workers, CT Chapter representing over 2,400 members supports H.B. 5448. NASW/CT seeks a revision in the bill by the addition of “social workers” to the description of “medical professional” in lines 126-130.

 Clinical social workers provide two-thirds of all the mental health services in Connecticut. There are over 10,000 licensed social workers in Connecticut all with training in the assessment of a person within their environment. Determination of a person’s risk to self or others is part of social work training and practice. We know that at least Massachusetts, New Jersey, Maryland, Florida and the District of Columbia include social workers in their risk protection order statutes. We urge the Judiciary Committee to add substitute language that includes social workers as “medical professionals”.

Removal of weapons and ammunition from a person who is deemed a risk to self or other is a prudent state policy. H.B. 5448 has sufficient protections to assure that a risk protection order is only issued when justified and reviewed by the Court to assure that one’s rights are not unnecessarily restricted.

H.B. 5448 has provisions for removal of the protective order within a reasonable framework of 180 days that allows for the person to prove to the court that circumstances have changed to such a degree that the person is no longer a danger to self or others. The 180 days intervals allow for removal of the protective order, which is an improvement over current law, while being lengthy enough to protect the public and the individual who is under the order.

This bill also makes the request for an order to be accessible through paper copy and internet based form with plain language as to how to file. Legal filings can be confusing in a way that deters people from taking needed action, so this language rectifies that problem.

The state has a responsibility to take steps that work toward the safety of its residents. H.B. 5448 effectively does what is intended. NASW/CT supports this bill with the strong recommendation of adding social workers as “medical professionals”.

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