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Center for Law and the Public’s Health

Legal and Ethical Assessment Concerning Mental and Behavioral Health Preparedness


The Johns Hopkins Preparedness and Emergency Response Research Center (JH~PERRC), sponsored by the CDC, conducts research that aims to strengthen public health preparedness systems and infrastructure, with a focus on mental and behavioral health. One of the JH~PERRC’s core projects, “Legal and Ethical Assessment Concerning Mental and Behavioral Health Preparedness,” explores and analyzes the many unresolved legal and ethical issues, as well as potential solutions, related to the identification, accommodation, response, and treatment of mental and behavioral health conditions before, during, and after emergencies and disasters. The Project team has produced several publications which are listed below. In addition, the Project team has created a variety of translational tools, accessible through the links below, which provide concise information about key topics.


Rutkow L, Vernick JS, Spira AP, Barnett DJ. Using the law to promote the mental health of older adults during disasters. J Law Med Ethics. 2013;41:80-83.

Vernick JS, Gakh M, Rutkow L. Emergency detention of persons with certain mental disorders during public health disasters: legal and policy issues. Am J Disaster Med. 2012;7:295-302.

Rutkow L, Vernick JS, Wissow LS, Tung GJ, Marum F, Barnett DJ. Legal issues affecting children with preexisting conditions during public health emergencies. Biosecur Bioterror. 2013;11:89-95.

Rutkow L. The role of law in addressing mental health-related aspects of disasters and promoting resilience. Int J Emerg Ment Health. 2012;14:134-140.

Wissow LS, Rutkow L, Kass NE, Rabins PV, Vernick JS, Hodge JG. Ethical issues raised in addressing the needs of persons with serious mental disorders in complex emergencies. Disaster Med Public Health Prep. 2012;6:72-78.

Rutkow L, Vernick JS, Mojtabai R, Rodman SO, Kaufmann CN. Legal challenges for substance abuse treatment during disasters. Psychiatr Serv. 2012;63:7-9.

Hodge JG, Rutkow L, White LC. Redefining the legal basis for mental health emergencies. Annals Health Law. 2012;21:163-174.

Rutkow L, Vernick JS, Wissow LS, Kaufmann CN, Hodge JG. Prescribing authority during emergencies: challenges for mental health care providers. J Leg Med. 2011;32:249-260.

Rabins PV, Kass NE, Rutkow L, Vernick JS, Hodge JG. Challenges for mental health services raised by disaster preparedness: mapping the ethical and therapeutic terrain. Biosecur Bioterror. 2011;9:175-179.

Rutkow L, Gable L, Links JM. Protecting the mental health of first responders: legal and ethical considerations. J Law Med Ethics. 2011;39 Supp.1:56-59.

Hodge JG, Rutkow L, Corcoran AJ. A hidden epidemic: assessing the legal environment underlying mental and behavioral health preparedness in emergencies. St. Louis U J Health Law & Policy. 2010;4:33-92.

Hodge JG, Rutkow L, Corcoran AJ. Mental and behavioral health legal preparedness in major emergencies. Public Health Rep. 2010;125:759-762.

Rutkow L, Vernick JS, Semon NL, Flowers A, Errett NA, Links JM. Translating legal research on mental and behavioral health during emergencies for the public health workforce. Public Health Rep. 2014;129 Suppl 4:123-128.

Translational Tools:

First Responders, Mental Health Services, and the Law

Governmental Emergency Preparedness Plans and Mental and Behavioral Health Concerns

The Potential Implications of CALIF v. City of Los Angeles for Mental and Behavioral Health Preparedness

Frequently Asked Questions about Legal Preparedness for Health Care Providers and Administrators, Public Health Officials, Emergency Planners, and Others Regarding Mental and Behavioral Health

Prescribing Authority During Declared Emergencies for Mental and Behavioral Health Care Providers

Sample Legal Guidance Letter – Liability for Mental Health Care Providers

Issue Brief: Substance Abuse Treatment, Emergencies, and the Law

Frequently Asked Questions on Ethical Issues Related to Mental Health Care in Emergencies

Mental Health Legal Preparedness and Crisis Standard of Care

Emergency Detention of Persons Deemed a Danger to Themselves or Others During Public Health Emergencies

emergency mental health preparedness - img src: Yasser Alghofily @Flickr
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