SAMHSA Seeks Comments on Rule Changes Regarding Confidentiality of Substance Use Disorder Patient Records

The Legal Action Center (“LAC”) has released a template for stakeholders to use to comment on the January 18, 2017 Supplemental Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“SNPRM”) issued by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (“SAMHSA”). This SNPRM requests stakeholder comments on additional proposed changes to the regulations governing the confidentiality of substance use disorder patient records (“42 C.F.R. Part 2” or “Part 2”). The proposed changes are in addition to changes already made to 42 C.F.R. Part 2 by a Final Rule released on the same date. LAC submitted revised comments on the SNRPM on February 13, 2017.

Although both the Final Rule and the SNPRM are on hold until at least March 20, 2017, pursuant to a memorandum from President Trump, LAC strongly encourages stakeholders to comment on the SNPRM. While it is not clear that the February 17, 2017 comment submission deadline referenced in the SNPRM still applies, LAC is adhering to that deadline and advises others to do so as well.

The SNPRM seeks to clarify how lawful holders of Part 2-protected substance use disorder information may disclose that information to their contractors, subcontractors, and legal representatives for the purposes of carrying out payment, health care operations, and other health care related activities. The SNPRM also proposes changes to the notice of the prohibition on re-disclosure. LAC understands that there may be a legitimate need for some of the proposed changes, but is concerned the changes are written so broadly that they may threaten core Part 2 protections. Therefore, LAC does not support the proposed changes unless SAMHSA includes additional patient protections to balance the increased flexibility created by the proposed changes. LAC’s specific recommendations for additional protections are discussed in our comments.

Stakeholders are invited to use LAC’s template to submit comments, and to modify the template as they see fit. Comments should be submitted by February 17, 2017. Comments may be submitted online at http://www.regulations.gov, or by mail or hand delivery to:

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

Department of Health and Human Services

ATTN: Danielle Tarino, SAMHSA

5600 Fishers Lane, Room 13E89A

Rockville, Maryland 20857

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