November 21, 2018

Ask your senators to support the Overdose Prevention and Safety Act

The Overdose Prevention and Safety Act, to align substance use disorder treatment records with other medical records under HIPAA, passed with bipartisan support in the House but still awaits action in the Senate.

The Sisters of Charity Health System stands with the Catholic Health Association of the United States in urging you to ask your senators to support HR 6082, the Overdose Prevention and Safety Act. The act would align substance use disorder (SUD) treatment records with existing patient protections under HIPAA for the purposes of treatment, payment and health care operations—removing decades-old regulations preventing doctors from knowing their patients’ addiction treatment histories.

HR 6082 passed with overwhelming bipartisan support in the House earlier this year, and similar legislation in the Senate has garnered bipartisan support as well. Unfortunately, this legislation was not included in the recently-passed Support for Patients and Communities Act.

Clinicians treating patients for any condition need access to their complete medical histories, including information related to any SUD, to ensure their patients’ safety and delivery of the highest quality care. Partitioning a patient’s record to keep SUD diagnoses and treatments hidden from the clinicians entrusted to care for the patient, as required by 42 CFR Part 2, is dangerous for the patient, problematic for providers and contributes to the stigmatization of mental and behavioral health conditions.

Too many patients who suffer from an SUD have stories of how a well-intentioned emergency room physician or other clinician nearly prescribed them an opioid or another drug that would have endangered their life or sobriety. Such incidents occur because current law prevents some clinicians from accessing information on the patient’s SUD and treatment plan unless the patient has given consent.

Please urge your senators to pass HR 6082 before the current Congress adjourns at the end of the year. A sample letter is available here.

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From its Cleveland headquarters, the Sisters of Charity Health System provides oversight, leadership and strategic direction to more than 20 organizations responding to community needs in Canton and Cleveland, Ohio, and South Carolina.

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