TOPEKA — Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly signed House Bill 2365 into law Wednesday, which protects Kansas National Guard members identities who participate in peer counseling sessions. It exempts notes and records of the National Guard Member’s sessions from the Kansas Open Records Act (KORA).
The bill passed nearly unanimously, with a 121-1 vote in the Kansas House of Representatives and 39-0 in the Kansas Senate, and will go into effect July 1.
The goal of the bill is to encourage more National Guard members to participate in mental health counseling.
“It’s important that we do all we can to decrease the stigma around mental health and encourage guardsmen and women to seek the necessary help,” Kelly said.
At the signing ceremony, Maj. Gen. Lee E. Tafanelli and mental health representatives from the Kansas National Guard joined Kelly.
Tafanelli said that the bills add to the services already provided to Kansas National Guard members, and protects their identities. He said he also hopes this encourages more people to get help.
“You have to be willing to come forward and say you need some help,” he said
HB 2365 makes National Guard members’ records inadmissible and not subject to disclosure or discovery in judicial or other types of proceedings.
The bill states that “Any communication made by a participant or peer support specialist in a peer support counseling session subject to this section, and any oral or written information conveyed in a peer support counseling session subject to this section, are not admissible in any judicial proceeding, administrative proceeding, arbitration proceeding or other adjudicatory proceeding.”
“This is an issue of great importance to me personally and I’m proud to sign this legislation into law,” said Kelly, who cited that this legislation is of great importance to her.
Grant DeMars is a University of Kansas senior from Salina majoring in Journalism.