9/11 EMERGENCY FIRST RESPONDERS FIGHT USE OF PSYCHOTHERAPY RECORDS IN SUIT AGAINST FLORIDA DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH

In a law suit filed in Florida state court in Orlando, Florida, on June 4, 2010, a group of eight 9/11 emergency first responders and their licensed mental health counselor sued the Florida Department of Health (DOH) to prohibit release or use of their psychotherapy records. The emergency petition was filed in the Ninth Judicial Circuit Court for Orange County, Florida, by attorney George F. Indest III, President of the Health Law Firm, located in Altamonte Springs.

The court petition alleges that the eight individuals were all emergency first responders to the World Trade Center tragedy in New York on September 11, 2001, some volunteers from other states. It alleges that they suffered various mental, emotional and psychiatric problems, including post-traumatic stress disorder, as a result of their service at the site of the crash. They were later referred to a mental health counselor in Orlando (identified only as "Jane Roe" in the court suit) for mental health counseling and treatment, by various service organizations. During their treatment, in some cases after years of treatment, a new third-party claims administrator contracted by the Bush administration to manage medical bills from the 9/11 emergency, attempted to terminate payment or their mental health counseling, according to court papers.

When the counselor and patients took action to prevent this, the third-party claims administrator, a private, for-profit company, filed a complaint against the counselor with DOH. Mr. Indest, who is a board certified health law attorney, stated: "Invading the personal privacy of these heroes by using their psychotherapy records against their will is clearly contrary to law. If the patients whose care is at issue do not desire this, the administrative agency shouldn't proceed."

The complaint to DOH and the subsequent letter of investigation named only three patients. However, DOH issued an administrative subpoena to the mental health counselor for all eight of her patients' psychotherapy records. The counselor filed an objection to the Florida Surgeon General to prevent release of the psychotherapy records. The eight patients (who were only identified in the suit as "John Roe 1 through 8"), have alleged in their suit that they believe the third-party claims administration company has provided copies of some or all of their psychotherapy records to the DOH investigator. They seek a court order sealing their records and preventing any further use. Under Florida law, the names of the subjects of DOH investigations and patients whose records are used in investigations must be kept confidential.


For additional information:
George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M.
President & Managing Partner
The Health Law Firm
1101 Douglas Avenue
Altamonte Springs, FL 32714
Telephone: (407) 331-6620
Cell: (407) 341-7411
Telefax: (407) 331-3030