If you’re contemplating addiction treatment, one of the things that may concern you is who will find out about your situation. Throughout your substance abuse experience, you may have taken steps to keep others from finding out about your problem. Either out of pride or fear of consequences, you probably kept your drug use a secret from an employer, co-workers, clients, and others. If this sounds familiar, you should know that you’re not alone and many other addicts have had similar concerns.
Just like your addiction, your treatment for it is your own concern and there are laws in place to protect your privacy. In addition to laws, many Union treatment centers also establish their own rules to protect their clients. In fact, some rules regarding contact and the sharing of information may seem overly strict, but they’re enacted to protect you and the other clients seeking confidential treatment. When a recovering addict can feel confident that his or her information won’t be shared publicly, they can open up and get much more out of the treatment.
Privacy Laws Can Help You Protect Your Career
In 1996, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) was passed by the federal government. One of the things it does is protect the privacy of patients in healthcare facilities. While people assume this only refers to hospitals, clinics, and private doctors’ offices, it also applies to drug and alcohol treatment centers. There are very specific rules regarding how and when a facility can share patient information. Except where it’s permissible under the regulations, the facility can only share a patient’s information with that patient’s consent.
If you think the facility, or its employees, might share your information anyway, you should be aware that there are severe penalties in place. For a first offense, the facility will be charged a fee of $500. If there’s a second breach of privacy laws, the Union drug treatment center would face a fine of $5,000 per incident. That fine would apply for any additional breaches, as well. The individual staff member responsible for illegally sharing the information would face the loss of their license. These penalties help ensure each client’s privacy is respected by all employees of the facility.
When Can Client Information Be Shared?
As previously mentioned, there are some situations in which the government allows treatment centers to share client information. Largely, this involves situations in which the client is under investigation for crimes, including child abuse. When a crime was committed on treatment center property, or perpetrated against employees of the facility, a police report may include details about the patient’s identity. This can include the name and last known address of the individual, as well as a statement about the crime that was allegedly committed.
Where child abuse has been alleged, the treatment facility can release an initial report, containing identifying information about the individual. However, any follow-up inquiries can only be answered with the client’s consent. Additionally, information can be shared with outside medical personnel only when the individual requires emergency medical treatment. In this situation, only the information needed to treat the individual may be shared with emergency medical personnel.
When Privacy Works Against the Client
In some ways, it can feel as though privacy laws are working against the recovering addict. For example, many treatment centers have strict rules about contact with friends and family, while also prohibiting the sharing of information. Typically, staff members will tell your loved ones that contact isn’t possible for the first few weeks of treatment and that it will be up to you to decide what information you want to share. This ensures nothing is shared with people posing as family members. You’re entirely in control of the sharing of your information.
You’ll also find that your personal electronic devices are not permitted in the facility. This is also a privacy measure. Since phones, tablets, and laptops are equipped with cameras, video recorders, and voice recorders, it’s a wise precaution to prohibit these devices. This prevents other recovering addicts from sharing recordings of one another online. This type of security breach can be intentional or accidental, so prohibiting the devices is the safest measure.
If you have more questions about your privacy rights in addiction treatment, call our counselors at 833-762-3739. We can share our privacy policies and talk to you about any other treatment concerns. Learning more about our services will help you feel at ease, so you can commit to a recovery program.