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SAMHSA Revises Regulations on Substance Use Disorder Privacy Records

For legal counsel, privacy officers

On July 15, the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration published revised regulations and FAQs governing the confidentiality of substance use disorder (SUD) patient records. The revised regulations take effect on Aug. 14. 

A summary of the final rule – prepared by Health Policy Alternatives, Inc. – is available for CHA members. 

The regulations are found in 42 C.F.R. Part 2 and often referred to as the “Part 2” regulations. They apply to hospitals and certain other entities that have an identified unit that holds itself out as providing SUD diagnosis, treatment or referral, or has staff whose primary function is the provision of SUD diagnosis, treatment or referral, and who are identified as such providers.

The revised regulations are intended to facilitate information exchange to promote coordinated care and make the regulations more understandable and less burdensome. The revisions: 

  • Remove the requirement that an authorization to release patient records specify the name of an individual person to receive them. Instead, an entity can be named to receive them, such as a hospital, medical group, agency, or other organization. 
  • More closely align the Part 2 permissible disclosures for payment and health care operations purposes with HIPAA 
  • More closely align the Part 2 permissible research disclosures with HIPAA and the Common Rule 
  • Clarify the permissible disclosures for audit and program evaluation purposes.
  • Permit a Part 2 program to disclose patient records to medical personnel without patient consent in a state or federally declared emergency, if the Part 2 program is closed and unable to provide services or obtain the patient’s informed consent
  • Amend the definition of “records” to exclude information conveyed verbally (as opposed to in writing) to a non-Part 2 program for treatment purposes with patient consent. Also permit entities to segregate Part 2 and non-Part 2 records so that only the Part 2 records are subject to the stricter Part 2 rules. 
  • Revise provisions related to central registries, prescription drug monitoring programs undercover agents, disposition of records, and employee use of personal email or cell phones.

These regulations do not implement statutory changes made in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Safety Act; those changes will take effect in March 2021 and will be covered in future rulemaking. 

This content is restricted to members.