On February 5, 2016, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued proposes changes to the Confidentiality of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Patient Records regulations, also known as “Part 2 records” which were published in the Federal Register on February 9, 2016.

Significantly, the proposed changes update Part 2, which was originally enacted in 1975, to take into consideration the way health information is exchanged today—electronically—and within new models of delivering health care to patients.

The changes in the proposed rule include:

  • Allowing Part 2 data to be included in scientific research studies with specific requirements to protect confidentiality
  • Revise the definition of what falls within a Part 2 program so Part 2 rules do not apply to general medical facilities or general medical practices, but only to specialized substance abuse treatment programs
  • Allowing a patient to provide a more generalized authorization for the release of substance abuse treatment information as long as the patient gets a list of those providers who may have access to the information “to support increased participation of individuals with substance use disorders in integrated care by allowing more flexibility for information sharing and including additional confidentiality protections
  • To include the protections to both paper and electronic records

As one who was intimately involved in the process that the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) undertook over the past few years to understand and address the concerns that individuals who are being treated for substance use have access to and receive integrated care from providers and that the providers, this is great news and SAMHSA should be applauded.

The proposed changes are open for public comment until 5 p.m. on April 11, 2016.  To submit comments electronically, go to http://www.regulations.gov.