Stakeholders say the current regulations, uunchanged since 1987, are not allowing them to share treatment data, according to SAMHSA

SAMHSA Wants Input on Updating Patient Records Confidentiality Regs

The agency has set a June 11 public listening session to solicit input about the regulations, which last were updated in 1987. Stakeholders say some of the current consent requirements make it difficult for new types of health care organizations to share substance abuse treatment information.

The federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration had announced it will hold a public listening session June 11 to solicit information about modernizing the Confidentiality of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Patient Records Regulations, found at 42 CFR Part 2. The session will be held in Rockville, Md., from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. SAMHSA will post the agenda and logistical information on how to participate via the phone or online at ahead of the meeting, which will be open to the public and available as a webcast.

To register for the meeting, go to

SAMHSA's notice indicates the statute governing the confidentiality of substance abuse treatment information guarantees the confidentiality of information for people who receive substance abuse treatment services from federally assisted programs; the programs may release identifiable information related to substance abuse treatment services only with that individual's express consent.

"The federal regulations that implement this law—Title 42 of the Code of Federal Regulations Part—were last updated in 1987. Over the last 25 years, significant changes have occurred within the U.S. health care system that were not envisioned by these regulations, including new models of integrated care that are built on a foundation of information sharing to support coordination of patient care, the development of an electronic infrastructure for managing and exchanging patient data, the development of prescription drug monitoring programs and a new focus on performance measurement within the health care system. When the regulations were written, substance abuse treatment was primarily conducted by specialty treatment providers, and as a result, the impact on coordination of care was not raised as a core issue," its notice states. "SAMHSA has heard from stakeholders that some of the current consent requirements make it difficult for these new health care organizations including health information exchange organizations (HIEs), Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs), and others to share substance abuse treatment information. A number of organizations across the country are excluding substance abuse treatment data due to the difficulty and expense of implementing the functionality and workflow changes necessary to comply with current regulations. In these instances, patients are prevented from fully participating in integrated care efforts even if they are willing to provide consent."

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    May 2021


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