Substance Abuse and Mental Health Records: What Can You Release?

April 27, 2012 — 1,283 views  
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The benefit of using electronic medical records largely derives from how portable the information they carry really is. The ability to transfer entire health histories and logs of treatment from one professional to another improves care and reduces costs for all involved. However, there are many regulations governing privacy practices related to medical records, especially when it comes to mental health records and substance abuse records.

There are many stigmas and fears attached to histories of mental health issues and drug problems, which is why many people are reticent to share them with anyone - even doctors and medical professionals. People may also fear they'll be ostracized or even prosecuted for having purchased illegal drugs or succumbing to a mental illness, so they may avoid seeking treatment if their afflictions are made public.

That's why federal law prohibits the sharing of mental health records and substance abuse records without the consent of the person to whom they belong. These strictures apply to any information connected to treatment or care given for mental problems or drug abuse in the past, and they extend to any sort of information (including addresses, workplaces, physical characteristics and phone numbers) that could be used to identify the patient.