Does Mental Health Show Up on Background Check
Background checks correlate with mental health background checks. A person’s mental health may come up in a background check during a background check, though not always.1
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Being nervous about a mental health background check is normal. Most people don’t have any idea about the stuff that shows up on it and wonder if they should be worried about a potential employer seeing some past incident or mistake.
Fortunately, mental health background checks are very rare and only used in very specific circumstances. So most people don’t need to worry about them.
But…there are some things on a mental health background check that can negatively impact someone’s life and be used against them when it’s part of what shows up on a background check.
Since a person’s mental health record is protected by privacy laws, knowing who can access it and when mental health records can be used despite public health privacy laws, is key.
The best way to ensure that mental health records aren’t appearing on a background check is to do one on yourself.
Related Reading: How to Get a Copy of My Criminal Record
Since mental health background check reports are used for certain professional positions (like nursing background checks) and can be accessed by law enforcement officials, this private health information can be used to assess government job eligibility and can apply to gun background checks and background checks for concealed carry permit requests.
So, if a person has mental health issues in their past, a background check may reveal them to potential employers (such as with a background check for daycare or a caregiver background check). Likewise, if a person needs to purchase a firearm, the record may be used to deny them in certain states.
This guide outlines all the ways a mental health background check can be used, what it will show, and when a mental health record can negatively impact a person’s life.
Can employers check mental health records? No, not really. A person’s mental health is considered part of their physical health record, as such, it is not commonly part of what shows up on an employment background check.
U.S Congress passed the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act5 (HIPAA) in 1996. The act gave the United States Department of Human Services the mandate of keeping patients’ personal information and other healthcare consumers as private as possible.3
The HIPAA privacy rule protects people from unauthorized disclosure of personal health information, and mental health records are part of it.
However, when an employer provides a self-insured health plan for its workers, it operates a health clinic for employees, or is an intermediary for health care providers, it is bound by the protections outlined by the HIPAA privacy regulation.2
Also, sometimes mental health records are disclosed during a health care enrollment process. But, employers cannot ask current or prospective employees about specific diseases unless the individual is asking permission for accommodation for a disability.
The only time an individual’s health records are released is when the employer gets a signed consent from them or a signed court order by a judge, which is very rare.
So, basically, a mental health record will not be disclosed during the hiring process or on a background check for employment, unless the job requires an extensive level 2 background check. It will not show up on things like a Home Depot background check or a Walmart background check.
Related Reading: Can a background check reveal past employers?
Most people want to know whether a background check will show a mental health record. For most cases, no, it won’t.
However, there are a few exceptions to this rule. Law enforcement can gain access to a person’s mental health record when that person is involved in a legal violation, infraction, or crime. Likewise, jobs that involve patients part of a nursing background check) and high levels of responsibilities (like a security clearance background check) can include a search of mental health records.
A medical practitioner must keep a person’s medical history confidential, but that does not mean that someone cannot access it.
In the ordinary course of tenant and employment screening, mental health records do not feature unless they are linked to eviction or other public criminal record.1,3
Typically, most background checks will not show physical health information and mental health records. Definitely not during the pre-employment background check.
To obtain these records, the employer has to obtain authorization from the individual or a signed order from a judge. But if the mental health records are relevant to the job they are applying for, the employer is permitted6 to do so, though in rare scenarios.1
A mental health background check reveals a person’s psychological conditions, medical prescriptions related to the condition, frequency of treatment, session start and stop times, clinical summaries, summaries of symptoms, diagnosis, prognosis, medicine details, test or scan results, and other mental health information from the person’s entire life.
Typically, a mental health background check is used in states that require it for firearm ownership and specific professions.
For example, New York provides a platform for conducting mental health background checks using the Automated Mental Health Background Check7 (MHBC).
The MHBC system automatically allows businesses to search all public mental health systems. Individuals requesting pistol permits, explosives, long rifles, and certain types of employment can use the system to check their mental health background to see if they meet the criteria.3
Every staff who uses the system must obtain Information Security Training and Health Insurance Portability and Accountability training. Residents of New York State can get the training from the New York Statewide Learning Management System.8
These regulations are in place to comply with HIPPA.
Forty-seven states have laws that authorize and require reporting relevant data identifying anyone who is prohibited from acquiring firearms due to mental health-related issues.
But, all states have varying degrees of requirements. The following table outlines the most common:
|State||Requires reporting involuntary commitment||Requires reporting court orders to undergo involuntary outpatient treatment||Requires reporting individuals who are under guardianship|
Out of these states, the following states have laws requiring agencies, courts, and mental health officials to report the necessary mental health information regarding commitments and adjudications within a specified period3:
|Minnesota||Within three business days|
|Nebraska||As soon as practicable but within 30 days|
|Nevada||Within five business days|
|New Mexico||Upon entry of a court order, judgment or verdict|
|North Carolina||48 hours, excluding weekends and holidays|
|Rhode Island||48 hours|
|South Carolina||Five days|
|South Dakota||Seven days|
|Tennessee||As soon as practicable but no later than the third business day|
|Virginia||“As soon as practicable, but no later than the close of business on the following business day”|
|Washington||Three judicial days|
|Wisconsin||“In a timely manner”|
In some states, disclosure to the NICS of a person’s mental health record is authorized but not required.
These states include West Virginia, Nebraska, Missouri, Florida, and Colorado.2
When purchasing a firearm, a mental health record will be checked in the National database, but only if the state has submitted the information to the Criminal Justice Department.
The “Brady Act” of the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act makes it a requirement for all Federal Firearms Licensees to do a background check before transferring a firearm or an explosive. These background checks are performed using the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS).9
When one tries to buy an explosive or a firearm, the Federal Firearms Licensee (FFL), the seller, contacts the NICS by phone or electronically. The potential buyers fill out the ATF form,10 and the seller conveys this data to the NICS, which then runs a background check on the person. The background check reveals whether the person is eligible for a firearm purchase or not.2
The NICS gives the FFLs full service in the District of Columbia, 31 states, and five United States territories. It also offers partial service to 6 states, and the remaining 13 states conduct their search through NICS.
The NICS can be reached by phone seven days a week, 17 hours a day, including holidays. All calls are recorded and monitored. However, the NICS e-check11 is always available.
Certain safety and security positions like the military and law enforcement agencies require a person to pass a mental health background check. The same applies to some healthcare positions and any government job with high-security clearance. The mental health check looks at a person’s past and current mental health to determine suitability.2
A person can call or visit their health care provider and request a copy of their health records. The person is then required to sign for the release of these forms.
The following table shows the departments responsible for mental health background checks in every state.
|State||Mental Background Check Link|
|New York Mental Background Check||Office of Mental Health7|
|Texas Mental Background Check||Office of Mental Health Coordination12|
|Iowa Mental Background Check||Division of Mental Health and Disability Services13|
|Wyoming Mental Background Check||Behavioral Health division14|
|Wisconsin Mental Background Check||Department of Health Sciences15|
|Alaska Mental Background Check||Division of Behavioral Health16|
|Alabama Mental Background Check||Department of Mental Health17|
|Arkansas Mental Background Check||Department of Human Sciences18|
|California Mental Background Check||Mental Health Services Division19|
|Colorado Mental Background Check||Department of Human Sciences20|
|Connecticut Mental Background Check||Department of Mental Health and Addiction21|
|Delaware Mental Background Check||Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health22|
|Florida Mental Background Check||Office of Behavioral Health23|
|Georgia Mental Background Check||Department for Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities24|
|Hawaii Mental Background Check||Adult Mental Health Division25|
|Idaho Mental Background Check||Department of Health and Welfare26|
|Illinois Mental Background Check||Department of Human Sciences27|
|Indiana Mental Background Check||Mental Health Services28|
|Kansas Mental Background Check||Behavioral Health Sciences Commission29|
|Kentucky Mental Background Check||Department for Behavioral Health, Developmental and Intellectual Disabilities30|
|Louisiana Mental Background Check||Office of Behavioral Health31|
|Maine Mental Background Check||Office of Behavioral Health32|
|Maryland Mental Background Check||Commission to Study Mental Health and Behavioral Health in Maryland33|
|Massachusetts Mental Background Check||Massachusetts Department of Mental Health34|
|Michigan Mental Background Check||Department of Mental Health35|
|Minnesota Mental Background Check||Office of Ombudsman for Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities36|
|Mississippi Mental Background Check||Mississippi Department of Mental Health37|
|Missouri Mental Background Check||Department of Mental Health38|
|Montana Mental Background Check||Mental Health Sciences Bureau39|
|Nebraska Mental Background Check||Division of Behavioral Health40|
|Nevada Mental Background Check||Department of Health and Human Services41|
|New Hampshire Mental Background Check||Department of Health and Human Sciences42|
|New Jersey Mental Background Check||The Division of Mental Health and Addiction Services43|
|New Mexico Mental Background Check||The Human Services Department44|
|New York Mental Background Check||Department of Health and Mental Hygiene45|
|North Carolina Mental Background Check||Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities, and Substance Abuse Services46|
|North Dakota Mental Background Check||Department of Human Services47|
|Ohio Mental Background Check||Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services48|
|Oklahoma Mental Background Check||Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse49|
|Oregon Mental Background Check||Behavioral Health Sciences50|
|Pennsylvania Mental Background Check||Department of Human Sciences51|
|Rhode Island Mental Background Check||Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities, and Hospitals52|
|South Carolina Mental Background Check||Department of Mental Health53|
|South Dakota Mental Background Check||Division of Behavioral Health54|
|Tennessee Mental Background Check||Department of Health and Substance Abuse Services55|
|Utah Mental Background Check||Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health56|
|Vermont Mental Background Check||Vermont Department of Mental Health57|
|Virginia Mental Background Check||Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Sciences|
|Washington Mental Background Check||Office of Forensic Mental Health Services58|
|West Virginia Mental Background Check||Bureau for Behavioral Health59|
Mental health background check reports are important for maintaining safety in certain industries (such as health care), but although HIPPA laws protect a person’s privacy, mental health records can still be used and accessed by both employers and law enforcement.
Background checks correlate with mental health background checks. A person’s mental health may come up in a background check during a background check, though not always.1
Mental health records do not appear on background checks; only criminal charges or anything listed on the public index, such as evictions or criminal records.2
The law prohibits a person’s health record from being a public record; therefore, a background check does not show mental health. It only indicates criminal records or evictions.1
5150 stays on someone’s record permanently and bars them from possessing ammunition and firearms. These records are forever and cannot be overturned.4
302 stays on a person’s record for the rest of their lives unless their attorney petitions and has it removed.
A welfare check does not go into a person’s record.
Read More: Does a wellness check go on your record?
If the commitment is illegal, the court expunges its records, and the petitioner’s right to own arms is reinstated. However, when asking does a section 12 stay on your record, if they are not erased, they stay on record.4
Read More: Does a 72 hour hold go on your record?
As per the federal law to which Colorado is subject, a person is prohibited from owning a gun if they have ever been convicted of a felony or misdemeanor or if they have a mental condition.
Committed to a mental institution60 means that a person has formally been committed to a mental institution either by a commission, board, court, or any lawful authority. The term also incorporates involuntarily committing to a mental facility as an outpatient or inpatient.
Anyone involuntarily admitted to a mental facility or found a danger to themselves and others has their records in the system. These records show up during background checks.4
Someone who has ever been committed to a mental institution or adjudicated as a mental defective is not allowed to own a gun in New Jersey.
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