Feds issue guidance on substance abuse confidentiality law

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The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration have issued guidance to help providers apply Title 42 of the Code of Federal Regulations Part 2 to healthcare settings, including the electronic exchange of health information.

42 CFR Part 2, which protects the confidentiality of substance use disorder patient records, was passed by Congress in 1975 because of concerns about the potentially negative consequences that could come from disclosing such information.

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However, much has changed since the law governing the confidentiality of substance use disorder records went into effect, including the widespread adoption of electronic health records by providers. And, with the opioid epidemic continuing to take a toll on the lives of Americans, ONC and SAMHSA contend that it is critical for individuals with substance use disorders to get the safest and most effective treatment possible.

“The information included in the new resources we are posting on HealthIT.gov should help providers and health information exchange organizations understand how to appropriately access and securely share health information with the patient’s consent,” said Don Rucker, MD, national coordinator for HIT.

The agencies have released two facts sheets. The first document explains a 42 CFR Part 2 program and how providers can determine how Part 2 applies to them. The second document describes how 42 CFR Part 2 applies to the electronic exchange of healthcare records with a Part 2 program.

“SAMHSA works to connect people who have treatment needs to appropriate resources, and the opioid crisis has only increased the urgency with which we view this topic,” added Elinore McCance-Katz, MD, assistant secretary for mental health and substance use. “We want to familiarize stakeholders with scenarios pertaining to Part 2 to help eradicate any barrier someone might encounter to either choosing or providing appropriate treatment.”

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