The Role of Healthcare Networks in the ERPO Petition Process

Clinicians are included in some state ERPO laws as petitioners, reflecting the critical role healthcare providers play in their communities. Even when clinicians themselves cannot petition for an ERPO in their state, clinicians and their healthcare networks may connect with law enforcement to initiate the process if necessary. The support healthcare networks provide clinicians engaging with patients who may be at risk of harm to themselves or others is critical in getting those patients the help they need and potentially saving lives. In this section, learn about the role healthcare networks play in the ERPO petition process and best practices for establishing ERPO protocols.

Designated ERPO Coordinators

Typically, petitioners are required to attend a hearing in front of the court in order to present the evidence for why an ERPO is necessary. Even in states where clinicians cannot file, their testimony for why a patient may need an ERPO would still be a crucial part of the petition. If a clinician feels they need to petition for an ERPO, but does not have the capacity to attend a court hearing, there are options healthcare networks can provide to assist.

Healthcare networks should designate and train clinical ERPO coordinators. These ERPO coordinators should be able to file petitions and provide testimony on behalf of the initiating clinician so that the clinician may avoid a time-consuming filing and hearing process which they may not be able to allocate time for. ERPO coordinators can also work with local law enforcement to develop a protocol for healthcare-based filing and streamline the petition process.

In states where clinicians may not file ERPO petitions, ERPO coordinators can still act as a main point of contact between clinicians and law enforcement if a clinician believes an ERPO is necessary. 

Legal Counseling

Clinicians may have apprehensions about utilizing a legal tool such as ERPOs after determining a patient is in crisis and at risk of harm, particularly with regards to protected health information disclosures and legal liability. Studies show that clinicians are more comfortable filing ERPOs if they have access to legal counsel who would be able to guide them through the process. 

ERPO Training to Clinicians

In addition to legal counseling, clinicians need comprehensive ERPO training as well as training on how to broach the topic of access to firearms with patients. Although clinicians, particularly primary care and emergency settings, identify patients at risk of harming themselves and others, awareness of ERPOs among clinician groups is low, according to multiple studies. Clinicians should be informed about ERPOs and trained on their usage.

For clinician-focused educational materials on ERPOs, including clinical scenarios, firearm violence risk screening questions, and more, review the Clinicians page of this toolkit.

Healthcare providers must uphold the HIPAA privacy rule and patient-doctor confidentiality when filing an ERPO petition. The US Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has provided guidelines to navigate disclosing protected health information (PHI) as part of an ERPO petition. Learn more about ERPOs, patient privacy, and PHI disclosures from the guidelines here.

If you are in immediate danger, please call 911.

If you are experiencing a crisis, please text or call 988.

The content of this website is not legal advice and is only intended for general informational purposes. If you need legal advice, please contact an attorney.