SAMHSA Updates Part 2 Rules

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On July 13, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) announced the adoption of revised Confidentiality of Substance Use Disorder Patient Records regulations in an effort to improve care coordination for substance abuse patients and reduce the burdens on their providers. The revisions to the regulations, commonly known as the Part 2 Rules (42 CFR Part 2), had been proposed in August 2019.

Patient consent is generally required for disclosures of substance abuse information, with a few exceptions (including disclosures in bona fide medical emergencies, responding to court orders, and scientific research). This basic principle remains unchanged, but the revisions will allow healthcare providers to better coordinate care, manage claims, and conduct training and quality improvement activities. The Department of Health and Human Services’ fact sheet includes a chart showing the key revisions to the rules.

In HHS’s press release, HHS Secretary Alex Azar said, “This reform will help make it easier for Americans to discuss substance use disorders with their doctors, seek treatment, and find the road to recovery.” The revisions will also better align the Part 2 Rules, which predated HIPAA, with the HIPAA Privacy Rule, which already permits disclosures for care coordination and case management under the principle of “health care operations.”

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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