Clinical Psychology Associatesof North Central Florida , P.A. CPANCF.COM
Providing Quality Psychological Consultation, Assessment and Psychotherapy to the North Central Florida Community
2121 NW 40th Terr. Ste B, GainesvilleFL 32605 Main Office - Gainesville: (352) 336-2888 Ocala: (352) 629-110
Is My Alcohol or Drug Treatment Confidential?
Even with today’s confidentiality laws, entering treatment for alcohol and/or drug abuse continues to invoke fear in patients. Not only are consumers afraid that family and friends may find out, but they also fear legal prosecution. In turn, many addicted individuals will forego treatment to protect their reputation within their community. Fortunately, Congress recognized the need to develop federal confidentiality regulations specifically for alcohol and drug abuse patients.
The law protects the privacy of all communications between a patient and a psychologist, but some situations are excluded by law. In most situations, we can only release information about your treatment to others if you sign a written Authorization form that meets certain legal requirements imposed by HIPAA and/or other Federal or State law.
HIPAA and Federal drug laws both provide protections for psychological information as well as alcohol and drug treatment information.
How Does Federal Law Protect my Alcohol and Drug Information?
The confidentiality of alcohol and drug abuse patient records maintained by this program is protected by Federal law and regulations. Generally, the program may not say to a person outside the program that a patient attends the program, or disclose any information identifying a patient as an alcohol or drug abuser
(1) The patient consents in writing:
(2) The disclosure is allowed by a court order; or
(3) The disclosure is made to medical personnel in a medical emergency or to qualified personnel for research, audit, or program evaluation.
Violation of the Federal law and regulations by a program is a crime. Suspected violations may be reported to appropriate authorities in accordance with Federal regulations. Federal law and regulations do not protect any information about a crime committed by a patient either at the program or against any person who works for the program or about any threat to commit such a crime. Federal laws and regulations do not protect any information about suspected child abuse or neglect from being reported under State law to appropriate State or local authorities.
(See 42 U.S.C. 290dd–3 and 42 U.S.C. 290ee–3 for Federal laws and 42 CFR part 2 for Federal regulations.)
There are other situations that require only that you provide written, advance consent. Your signature on our patient service agreement form will provide consent for the following activities:
· We may occasionally find it helpful to consult other health and mental health professionals about a case. During a consultation, we make every effort to avoid revealing the identity of our patients. The other professionals are also legally bound to keep the information confidential. If you don’t object, we will not tell you about these consultations unless we feel that it is important to our work together. We will note all consultations in your Clinical Record (which is called “PHI” in my Notice of Psychologist’s Policies and Practices to Protect the Privacy of Your Health Information).
· You should be aware that we share offices with and practice with other mental health professionals and that we employ administrative staff. In most cases, we need to share protected information with these individuals for both clinical and administrative purposes, such as scheduling, billing, returning messages to you, and quality assurance. All of the mental health professionals are bound by the same rules of confidentiality. All staff members have been given training about protecting your privacy and have agreed not to release any information outside of the practice without the permission of a professional staff member.
· We have contracts with a number of independent practices, government and state agencies, municipalities, employee assistance programs, billing program vendors, and hardware and software vendors/maintenance individuals and companies and entities which are considered “Business Associates”. These Business Associates promise to maintain the confidentiality of any data they are disclosed or come into contact with except as otherwise required by law.
· Protected health information may by used or disclosed in supervised training within our office where Psychology Residents, Assistants in Psychology, interns or trainees learn to practice psychotherapy or assessment.
· We may use personal health information to conduct or participate in research studies based upon clinical and health records (archival research). In such cases any personal identifying information shall be removed from any data sets created. Any such planned research shall be contingent upon a review of the research plan by us to ensure that privacy and other ethical requirements are met. For example, we may collect outcome data on group treatment approaches or we may use limited data from your record to conduct a study of test patterns in head injury. Of course, we will not conduct any experimental research without a separate informed consent.
· Disclosures required by health insurers or to collect overdue fees are discussed in the patient services agreement.
There are some situations where we may be permitted or required to disclose information without either your consent or Authorization:
If you are involved in a court proceeding and a request is made for information concerning your diagnosis and treatment, such information is protected by the psychologist-patient privilege law. We cannot provide any information without your (or your legal representative’s)written authorization, or a court order, or if we receive a subpoena of which you have been properly notified and you have failed to inform that you oppose the subpoena. If you are involved in or contemplating litigation, you should consult with your attorney to determine whether a court would be likely to order me to disclose information.
If a government agency is requesting the information for health oversight activities, within its appropriate legal authority, we may be required to provide it for them. If a patient files a complaint or lawsuit against us, we may disclose relevant information regarding that patient in order to defend myself.
If a patient files a worker’s compensation claim, and we are providing necessary treatment related to that claim, we must, upon appropriate request, submit treatment reports to the appropriate parties, including the patient’s employer, the insurance carrier or an authorized qualified rehabilitation provider. HIPAA rules also do not protect your information when applying for governmental or private disability, or when you are covered by automobile insurance.
There are some situations in which we are legally obligated to take actions, which we believe are necessary to attempt to protect others from harm and we may have to reveal some information about a patient’s treatment:
- If we know, or have reason to suspect, that a child under 18 is abused, abandoned, or neglected by a parent, legal custodian, caregiver, or any other person responsible for the child’s welfare, the law requires that we file a report with the Department of Child and Family Services. Once such a report is filed, we may be required to provide additional information.
- If we know or have reasonable cause to suspect, that a vulnerable adult has been or is being abused, neglected, or exploited, the law requires that we file a report with the central abuse hotline. Once such a report is filed, we may be required to provide additional information.
- If we believe that there is a clear and immediate probability of physical harm to the patient, to other individuals, or to society, we may be required to disclose information to take protective action, including communicating the information to the potential victim, and/or appropriate family member, and/or the police or seeking hospitalization of the patient. If such situations arise, we will make a reasonable effort to fully discuss it with you before taking any action and we will limit my disclosure to what is necessary.
While this written summary of exceptions to confidentiality should prove helpful in informing you about potential problems, it is important that we discuss any questions or concerns that you may have now or in the future. The laws governing confidentiality can be quite complex, and we are not attorneys. In situations where specific advice is required, formal legal advice may be needed.
Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (June, 2004) “The Confidentiality of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Patient Records Regulation and the HIPAA Privacy Rule: Implications for Alcohol and Substance Abuse Programs”