New HIPAA Opioid Epidemic Resources for Behavioral Health - Landscape

New HIPAA Opioid Epidemic Resources for Behavioral Health


The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office for Civil Rights (OCR) released new HIPAA opioid epidemic resources for consumers and behavioral health practitioners.

The new tools come in response to the Trump Administration’s ongoing fight against the national opioid epidemic. These are the first wave of resources that we can expect in the upcoming months out of HHS OCR in regards to HIPAA opioid epidemic guidance and regulation.

Director of OCR, Roger Severino commented on the new guidance, saying “HHS is using every tool at its disposal to help communities devastated by opioids, including educating families and doctors on how they can share information to help save the lives of loved ones.”

The HIPAA opioid epidemic resources are couched under the 21st Century Cures Act, an Obama-era legislation that advocates for patient and consumer rights and increased quality of care across a number of different parameters in the health care space.

Some of the new guidance departs radically from prior HIPAA guidance on access to protected health information (PHI). PHI is any demographic information that can be used to identify a patient. Access, use, and disclosure of PHI has strict limits under current regulation, but this new wave of HIPAA opioid epidemic guidance seeks to change that.

What’s Included in the HIPAA Opioid Epidemic Resources?

  • OCR has launched two new pages to give better resources to HIPAA as it applies to mental and behavioral health under the opioid epidemic. The goal of these pages is to grant easier access for consumers and professionals alike. The new guidance includes fact sheets, infographics, decision chats, and scenarios related to protected health information. The resources are meant to educate about sharing mental health data when it comes to records that indicate substance abuse is at play.
  • A working group will be launched to report on the ongoing rollout of these initiatives in regards to information sharing for research. The 21st Century Cures Act is also primarily concerned with data gathering from patients, which can be used in public research initiatives.
  • OCR has updated HIPAA guidance in relation to HIPAA and research.
  • HHS will develop better models for training in the form of materials for providers, patients, and families pertaining to protected health information that indicates substance abuse.
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