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House Bill 684 — Telehealth, behavioral, schools (-2)

House Bill 684 — Telehealth, behavioral, schools (-2)

Ronald M. Nate, Ph.D.
March 5, 2024

Bill Description: House Bill 684 would allow for telehealth behavioral health services on public school premises, and it creates provisions for the disclosure of otherwise private information about the student and access to means of harm.

Rating: -2

NOTE: House Bill 684 is a remake of H524 and H579.

Does it create, expand, or enlarge any agency, board, program, function, or activity of government? Conversely, does it eliminate or curtail the size or scope of government?

House Bill 684 provides for schools to include accommodations for telehealth behavioral health services on their premises. These services, provided either by public schools or made possible on public school campuses or buildings, go beyond the schools’ constitutional mandate: “The stability of a republican form of government depending mainly upon the intelligence of the people, it shall be the duty of the legislature of Idaho, to establish and maintain a general, uniform and thorough system of public, free common schools.” 

The point of Idaho public schools is to provide education, not to provide health care, mental care, or other non-education services. To the extent that public schools engage in and accommodate for those services, they expand the education bureaucracy beyond its mandated mission and lead to inefficiencies, as schools become health care centers in addition to trying to provide good education. This is an expansion in the scope of public education and of government more generally. 


Does it violate the spirit or the letter of either the U.S. Constitution or the Idaho Constitution? Examples include restrictions on speech, public assembly, the press, privacy, private property, or firearms. Conversely, does it restore or uphold the protections guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution or the Idaho Constitution?

The bill includes subsection (5) which states, “Protected health information, including but not limited to medical records and medical billing information created by the mental health professional or primary care provider, shall not be shared with or disclosed to a public school or public charter school unless disclosure is necessary to prevent or lessen a serious and imminent threat to the health or safety of the student or to any clearly identifiable person or persons and the mental health professional determines the student has the apparent intent and ability to carry out the threat.”

This is a constitutional concern on two fronts. First, the sharing of information need only be to “lessen” a “serious and imminent threat…” The bill does not define “serious” or “imminent” or what it means to lessen the threat. Arguably, almost any reference to any threat to the health or safety of the student or others could be construed to be serious and imminent. Second, the mental health professional must determine if “the student has the apparent intent and ability to carry out the threat.” It does not take much imagination to see this is a reference to the professional inquiring and probing into whether firearms or other weapons are available in the student’s home. This puts various constitutional rights in peril including, privacy and the keeping and bearing of arms. 


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