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New Resources Available about Sharing Mental and Behavioral Health Information to Improve Patient Treatment

December 19, 2017

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office for Civil Rights (OCR) is providing new and updated information at its website about sharing mental and behavioral health information. The goal is to improve patient treatment and ensure patient health and safety or the health and safety of others. 

These new and updated public resources highlight ways that family, friends, and others involved in a patient’s care will be able to get the information they need to support treatment, care coordination, and recovery. 

A series of new fact sheets have been prepared for mental health care consumers; families of a child with a mental health condition; and families of an adult patient with a mental health condition.

The OCR is providing specific guidance addressing:

  • HIPAA protections, which allow health professionals to share health information with a patient’s loved ones in emergency or dangerous situations
  • The obligations of covered health care providers
  • The circumstances in which covered providers can share information related to mental health and substance use disorder treatment 

 Mental Health FAQs and information about the HIPAA Privacy Rule and Sharing Information Related to Mental Health have been updated. 

Given the sensitive nature of mental health and substance use disorder treatment information, regulators and health care providers are working to protect patient privacy while ensuring appropriate information can be shared when a patient may be in crisis and incapacitated, such as during an opioid overdose.

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