Child Porn Report Leads to Mental Health Worker Being Fired

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By Myles Collier, Christian Post Contributor
November 10, 2011|5:47 pm

A mental health worker in Montana has been fired after telling police that one of her clients had child pornography on his computer.

John Gribble is scheduled to appear in Missoula county court at the end of the month. He has been charged with one count of sexually abusing a child. Specifically, the charge stems from Gribble possessing child pornography, according to Deputy Missoula County Attorney Jason Marks.

In the affidavit it was stated that "she had been dissuaded to report anything in regards to Gribble to the authorities with a threat of dismissal."

The woman who worked at Three Rivers Mental Health solutions in Missoula, Mont. contacted the police concerning the morally questionable content on Oct. 17.

The employee first reported the incident to her supervisor at Missoula counseling service. However she was subsequently told not to report the incident to the authorities. She first went to her supervisors after seeing the words "female child nude" and "preteen nude girls by themselves" in the browser window of Gribble's computer.

Three Rivers administrator Shea Hennelly says in order to break medical confidentiality the individual reporting the incident must include the names and address of the child involved as well as the extent of the child's injuries.

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In an interview with the Missoulian, Hennelly said, “In order to provide mental health services, we can't engage in dual roles. We're not allowed to go to police unless actual child abuse is observed.”

He continued, "She didn't witness someone abusing a child. What this woman reported to this office was she saw the tab of Web browsers that said teenage girls. That's a lot different."

In the wake of the Penn State sex abuse scandal this circumstance highlights the need for national discussions about the protocol when reporting child abuse. And specifically what laws prevent or hinder the acknowledgement of such cases. In this case it was the issue of physician-patient confidentiality.

“Breaching a patient (confidentiality) in a mental health center is not a clear-cut issue," Hennelly said. “We're not law enforcement officers and we can't go policing our clients.”

Montana law covering such issues states that a person “may not refuse to make a report... on the grounds of a physician-patient or similar privilege." However the law also states that a person needs the names and addresses of those involved as well as the extent of the child’s injuries.

The charge carries a prison term of up to 100 years and a $10,000 fine.

 

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