At times, health care providers need to share your mental and behavioral health information to enhance your treatment and to ensure your health and safety or the health and safety of others. If you are a patient with a mental health condition or substance use disorder, it may be helpful to you to know the ways your family, friends, and others involved in your care will be able to get the information they need to support your treatment, care coordination, and recovery.
OCR is providing specific guidance addressing HIPAA protections, the obligations of covered health care providers, and the circumstances in which covered providers can share information related to mental health and substance use disorder treatment.
For mental health care consumers
- If you experienced a health or mental health crisis, HIPAA helps your doctors, nurses, and social workers reconnect you with family, friends, and caregivers
For all audiences regarding the opioid crisis
- How HIPAA Allows Doctors to Respond to the Opioid Crisis
HHS Office for Civil Rights has released guidance on when and how healthcare providers can share a patient’s health information with his or her family members, friends, and legal personal representatives when that patient may be in crisis and incapacitated, such as during an opioid overdose.
For families of a child with a mental health condition
- When Your Child, Teenager, or Young Adult has a Mental Illness or Substance Use Disorder, Including Opioid Addiction: What Parents Need to Know about HIPAA
- Am I my child’s personal representative under HIPAA?
- When may a mental health professional use professional judgment to decide whether to share a minor client’s treatment information with a parent? (infographic)
- When can parents access information about their minor child’s mental health treatment? (decision chart)
For families of an adult patient with a mental health condition
- HIPAA helps family and friends stay connected with loved ones who have a substance use disorder, including opioid abuse, or mental or behavioral health condition
- When can I obtain treatment information about my loved one? (decision chart)
This guidance addresses some of the more frequently asked questions about when the Privacy Rule permits a health care provider to share the protected health information of a patient who is being treated for a mental health condition. The Rule is carefully balanced to allow uses and disclosures of information—including mental health information—for treatment and certain other purposes with appropriate protections. The mental health guidance addresses three core areas:
- How mental health information is treated under HIPAA;
- When mental health information may be shared with family and friends of an individual with mental illness, including parents of minors; and
- The circumstances in which information related to mental health may be disclosed for health and safety purposes.
OCR has organized certain FAQ's related to handling mental health information under HIPAA in two easy-to-access PDFs.
- HIPAA Privacy Rule and Sharing Information Related to Mental Health
- Additional FAQs on Sharing Information Related to Treatment for Mental Health or Substance Use Disorder—Including Opioid Abuse
The protected health information of individuals who receive drug and alcohol abuse treatment in federally-funded programs is subject to additional privacy protections under 42 USC § 290dd-2 and 42 CFR § 2.11 (Part 2). These federal rules are administered by HHS’s Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).