New NJ Rule Keeps Confidential Communications with Mental Health Providers Out of Court
By Snyder & Sarno on October 28, 2015
Last month, the New Jersey Supreme Court adopted a new rule into the New Jersey Rules of Evidence. This rule, N.J.R.E. 534, creates a unified privilege of confidentiality for patients with their mental healthcare providers. Effective July 1, 2016, the privilege will protect confidential communications between patients and their mental health professionals in the course of treatment for the patient’s emotional and mental health.
The mental health providers included in the Rule are: (1) psychologists; (2) physicians, including psychiatrists; (3) marriage and family therapists; (4) social workers, including social work interns and certified school social workers; (5) alcohol and drug counselors; (6) nurses; (7) professional counselors, associate counselors or rehabilitation counselors; (8) psychoanalysts; (9) midwives; (10) physician assistants; and (11) pharmacists.
Victims of violent crimes, though, are excluded from this new Rule. Instead, their communications are privileged under N.J.R.E. 517, the “Victim Counselor Privilege.”
As per section (b) of this new Rule, the general rule of privilege means that “a patient has a privilege to refuse to disclose in a proceeding, and to prevent any other person from disclosing confidential communications.” Very importantly, this indicates that a person involved in a court proceeding is not required to disclose any information or communications between his mental health provider and himself. However, as set forth in section (e), several exceptions exist. As it relates to child custody, subsection (e)(6) provides that a patient who undergoes a court-ordered psychological evaluation in a custody case would have no privilege when the evaluation is used in the custody case.
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