Pubdate: Mon, 30 Sep 2002
Source: Austin American-Statesman (TX)
Copyright: 2002 Austin American-Statesman


ORLANDO, Fla. (AP)--A judge ruled Monday that staff members at the drug 
rehab center where Gov. Jeb Bush's daughter is receiving treatment do not 
have to answer police questions about a piece of crack allegedly found in 
her shoe.

Circuit Judge Belvin Perry ruled that federal law protecting a drug 
treatment patient's privacy outweighed the interest of police officers in a 
criminal investigation.

If the drug treatment counselors were forced to give testimony, then ``all 
patients who suffer relapses could be hauled out of treatment programs and 
into criminal courts on the whim of a state prosecutor or police 
officers,'' the judge wrote.

The state attorney's office issued subpoenas for four staffers at the 
Center for Drug-Free Living in Orlando after police received a report from 
another patient on Sept. 9 that 25-year-old Noelle Bush had been found with 
cocaine in her shoe.

Workers at the Center for Drug-Free Living refused to cooperate, citing 
privacy concerns. One staff member wrote a statement for officers but 
ripped it up after a supervisor intervened.

Drug treatment counselors elsewhere said a ruling against the Orlando 
center would have had a chilling effect on people seeking treatment.

``If people are forced to disclose, everyone would have to re-examine the 
kinds of issues that are discussed in the therapeutic arena,'' said Kermit 
Dahlen, president and chief executive the Gordon Recovery Center in Sioux 
City, Iowa. ``They would have to warn their clients that they shouldn't 
talk about anything they wouldn't want disclosed in the future.''

Noelle Bush was put in a court-ordered rehabilitation program in February 
shortly after she was arrested at a pharmacy drive-through window for 
allegedly trying to buy the anti-anxiety drug Xanax with a fraudulent 
- ---
MAP posted-by: Keith Brilhart