OCR Launches Public Education Campaign About Civil Rights Protections in Response to the National Opioid Crisis

PUBLISHED: Oct 26, 2018
Relevant to: All Healthcare Organizations

The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has launched a public education campaign on civil rights protections in an effort to improve access to evidence-based opioid use disorder treatment and recovery services, such as Medication Assisted Treatment. This new campaign aims to ensure that covered entities are aware of their obligations under federal nondiscrimination laws, including laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of disability or limited English proficiency. In addition, the campaign seeks to educate the public about disability rights protections that may apply to persons in recovery from an opioid addiction.

Of specific interest to providers is the OCR guidance, How HIPAA Allows Doctors to Respond to the Opioid Crisis. The guidance explains that:

  • Providers can share information with an individual patient's loved ones in certain emergency or dangerous situations, such as when the patient is in a crisis and incapacitated or is facing a serious and imminent threat of harm.
  • Patients with decision-making capacity retain their right to decide when and whether their information will be shared, unless there is a serious and imminent threat of harm.
  • Patients' personal representatives, who have authority under state law to make health care decisions for patients, may request and obtain information on behalf of patients.

Included with today’s notice are example policies related to HIPAA and PHI disclosure as well as a link to the OCR Guidance.

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