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Attorney Mary Holloway Richard delivers presentation on behavioral health protections

Mary Holloway

Mary Richard represents institutional and non-institutional providers of health services, as well as patients and their families.

Mary Holloway Richard, Phillips Murrah healthcare law attorney, participated in a CLE webinar panel for healthcare counsel on Wednesday.

Strafford Publications presented the webinar on protecting patients’ behavioral health information, and disclosure requirements and limitations.

Richard’s presentation defines best practices for healthcare providers in situations where a potential breach in patient privacy may arise.

The panel addressed the distinction between instances when the release of behavioral health information is permissible or required.

A slideshow of the presentation is available to view here, and those interested in viewing the webinar may do so via Strafford’s website here.

For more information about Phillips Murrah’s Healthcare Law practice, click here.

Office Visit: Therapists need liability protection

By Mary Holloway Richard, Of Counsel for Phillips Murrah. This column was originally published in The Journal Record on January 18, 2017.


Mary Richard is recognized as one of pioneers in health care law in Oklahoma. She has represented institutional and non-institutional providers of health services, as well as patients and their families.

Office Visit: Therapists need liability protection

Behavioral health is a unique subset of health care law. I long have been privileged to see firsthand the challenges in working as a therapist while successfully avoiding liability and regulatory land mines, and I am empathetic with patients and families.

I believe it is important to provide protection from liability for therapists and to eschew expansion to predicting dangerousness of patients as the standard of care to which they are held. Therapists must adhere to standards of care that, when breached, result in liability to a patient for harm caused by that breach. Forty years ago the therapist’s burden was expanded to encompass a duty to warn third parties under certain circumstances in Tarasoff v. Regents of Univ. of California.

Recently the Washington Supreme Court decided Volk v. DeMeerleer, expanding liability of mental health professionals to unidentified individuals. As in Tarasoff, reactions among states can range from adopting to rejecting the rule in response. Such decisions are framed in reliance on laws in other states, scholarly articles and treatises, such as the creation of post-Tarasoff California statutory immunity for the therapist’s duty to warn third parties.

The Washington Supreme Court ruled in Volk that a psychiatrist could be liable for homicides even though the victims were not identified as targets of violence. The decision expands the scope of liability beyond the professional’s traditional duty to create a duty to identified third parties and may also result in expanding the rule from mental health professionals to other providers.

It is true that the Volk case concerned the murders of a young mother and her son as well as the suicide of the patient who killed them, and we are all too familiar with the facts of Columbine and Newtown. And society must protect these individuals. We must balance the need to protect our communities from violence with the need to protect our providers from the reprehensible burden of liability for predicting violent propensities.

The Washington Supreme Court stated that whether the patient’s violent actions were foreseeable should have been resolved by a jury and created instability concerning professional liability. It remains to be seen if this holding reflects a national trend of expanding the scope of liability for mental health and other health care professionals.

Mary Richard is a health care attorney with Phillips Murrah and a member of the Behavioral Health Task Force of the American Health Lawyers Association.

PM attorney Mary Richard appointed vice chair of AHLA Behavioral Health Task Force

Mary Holloway Richard, Of Counsel to Phillips Murrah’s Healthcare Practice Group, has been appointed Vice Chair of the American Health Lawyers Association’s Behavioral Health Task Force.

AHLA-logo-bigRichard was formerly a co-chair of the Providers and Clinicians Committee of the Behavioral Health Task Force.

She has represented both institutional and non-institutional providers of health services, as well as patients and their families.  Her career has included work at hospitals, outpatient clinics, behavioral health facilities and rehabilitation facilities and clinics.

Richard will be participating in a panel discussion entitled “Hot Topics in Behavioral Health” at the AHLA Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C. in June, 2015.

The Behavior Health Task Force was established by the nationwide professional organization to provide education for attorneys about the legal issues that arise in the provision of services to behavioral health patients and to alcohol and drug treatment providers and patients.