HHS Proposes New Protections to Increase Care Coordination and Confidentiality for Patients with Substance Use Challenges

This week, the U.S. Health and Human Services Department, through the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), announced proposed changes to the Confidentiality of Substance Use Disorder (SUD) Patient Records under 42 CFR part 2 (“Part 2”), which protects patient privacy and records concerning treatment related to substance use challenges from unauthorized disclosures. Specifically, the proposed rule increases coordination among providers and increases protections for patients concerning records disclosure to avoid discrimination in treatment. While substance use challenges exist in both rural and urban communities, “many rural areas and populations have disproportionately suffered from a growth in the use of opioids, heroin, prescription medications, and methamphetamines (meth)” according to a 2019 brief from the Rural Policy Research Institute. Comments are due by January 31.