Alcohol or Drug Treatment is Confidential
Some people that wish to seek treatment do not pursue it because they need or want the strictest confidentiality, regardless of the reason why. This can invoke quite a fear in many “could be” patients. It could be a reputation that needs guarding, legal concerns, or even just not wanting those around you to know your business. Unfortunately, the result is that some will sacrifice treatment. Because substance abuse treatment is within the realm of being illegal the HIPAA laws are enforced even more intricately to ensure all clients’ right to privacy.
Protection from Congress
Luckily, Congress has stepped up and created federal confidentiality laws explicitly for alcohol and drug abuse patients. The laws state that all communications between a patient and a psychologist are to be protected. The only exception is when the patient signs an Authorization form that meets the legal requirements enforced by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, better known as HIPAA. This act went into effect April 14, 2003.
What Information is Protected by HIPAA?
Future, past, or present information is safeguarded with HIPAA. This includes:
- Any health or mental health disorders
- The level of care received
- Payment information
- Personal patient information
- Medical records
What this act does for patients who seek treatment is to guarantee, by law, that no records can be released, no treatment can be verified, and no patient can be identified as a patient or someone that has sought treatment. More simply put, if someone asks, no information or confirmation is given about any patient. If this law is broken a crime has been committed, since federal law will have been breached. The person who broke the law will be prosecuted. Criminal penalties for wrongful disclosure can be as much as $250,000 and up to 10 years in prison. Healthcare workers are kept abreast of the latest HIPAA guidelines.
The only times where your information might be shared without your consent is if it is suspected that abuse or neglect is involved. Court orders or subpoenas must also be honored without your consent.