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Bill would allow health officials to tell schools when patients discuss violence

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DENVER -- Colorado might be known for sunshine, mountains and winning football teams, but unspeakable violence is also a part of the state’s history.

Columbine and the Aurora theater shooting happened within a half hour’s drive of the State Capitol.

While the General Assembly has debated several measures this year regarding what can be done to prevent school violence, one appears poised for passage after Tuesday.

State Rep. Mike Foote has sponsored a bill that would make it easier for health officials such as therapists and counselors to tell schools if one of their patients discusses committing violence.

“It creates the ability for a professional to disclose if there is an articulable and substantial threat,” Foote said.

Under current law, professionals can only disclose if there is an “imminent” threat. In the case of the Aurora shooter, during his trial it became clear his therapist knew of his violent tendencies but said little because of privacy laws.

“‘Serious’ and ‘imminent’ is a very high standard. Imminent is interpreted by many as he's on his way,” Foote said.

The measure cleared the House on second reading on Tuesday. But there remains some skeptics with the bill.

Officials with Colorado’s National Alliance on Mental Illness said it has yet to endorse the bill because there is some concern it might discourage people from attending counseling.

Some lawmakers expressed that view on the House floor.

“I am just concerned you’re creating a disincentive for people who struggle who need that help, that they're afraid to get that help because their private information is going to be aired,” Rep. Gordon Klingenschmitt said.

Foote emphasized the bill allows for health professionals to report information to schools and authorities using their discretion. They would not be required to under this bill.

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