Braley Statement on 5th Anniversary of Coach Ed Thomas’ Tragic Death PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Kirsten Hartman   
Tuesday, 24 June 2014 14:43

Washington, D.C. – Rep. Bruce Braley (IA-01) today issued the following statement marking the fifth anniversary of the tragic death of Aplington-Parkersburg Coach Ed Thomas:

“Coach Thomas’ family and loved ones have worked to ensure that his legacy lives on and continues to positively impact communities all over Iowa. He had a tremendous impact on those around him, and that’s an enduring tribute to the life he led.”

In June 2009, Ed Thomas, longtime football coach at Aplington-Parkersburg High School in Parkersburg, Iowa, was fatally shot by Mark Becker, a mentally ill former football player. Becker had been released from a Waterloo, Iowa, hospital less than 24-hours prior to the shooting.

Recently, due to a request made by Rep. Braley, the Health and Human Services Agency (HHS) issued new guidance clarifying what healthcare providers can disclose in order to protect health and public safety while ensuring that a patient’s privacy is protected—allowing greater sharing of information with law enforcement.

Last year, Jan Thomas, wife of coach Ed Thomas, joined Braley to testify before a House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations hearing on gun violence and mental health.

Following Ms. Thomas’ testimony, Rep. Braley sent a letter to HHS asking for clarification on whether the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) privacy rules interfere with the timely and continuous flow of health information between health care providers, patients, and families, and whether these rules can impede patient care and put public safety at risk. The guidance released today is a result of Braley’s letter.

HHS has also taken previous action as a result of Braley’s letter. In September 2013, HHS released a pocketbook guide to help both law enforcement and health care providers understand when and to what extent the HIPAA privacy rules permit providers to disclose information about an individual to law enforcement. The guide is designed to inform law enforcement on specific instances when they can disclose protected health information to the public in the name of public safety.

On the first anniversary of the shooting Braley introduced the Ed Thomas Act, which sought to clarify that existing HIPAA privacy requirements allow law enforcement agencies and medical providers to communicate more effectively when patients pose an inherent risk to the community.

As a result of this incident, Iowa passed a law requiring hospitals to notify law enforcement prior to discharge of a patient brought to a hospital for emergency mental health treatment by a law enforcement agency if an arrest warrant had been issued or charges were pending.

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