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those components of the Veterans Administration furnishing health care to veterans.
(3) Communication within a program or between a program and an entity having direct administrative control over that program. The restrictions on disclosure in these regulations do not apply to communications of information between or among personnel having a need for the information in connection with their duties that arise out of the provision of diagnosis, treatment, or referral for treatment of alcohol or drug abuse if the communications are
(i) Within a program or
(ii) Between a program and an entity that has direct administrative control over the program.
(4) Qualified Service Organizations. The restrictions on disclosure in these regulations do not apply to communications between a program and a qualified service organization of information needed by the organization to provide services to the program.
(5) Crimes on program premises or against program personnel. The restrictions on disclosure and use in these regulations do not apply to communications from program personnel to law enforcement officers which
(i) Are directly related to a patient's commission of a crime on the premises of the program or against program personnel or to a threat to commit such a crime; and
(ii) Are limited to the circumstances of the incident, including the patient status of the individual committing or threatening to commit the crime, that individual's name and address, and that individual's last known whereabouts.
(6) Reports of suspected child abuse and neglect. The restrictions on disclosure and use in these regulations do not apply to the reporting under State law of incidents of suspected child abuse and neglect to the appropriate State or local authorities. However, the restrictions continue to apply to the original alcohol or drug abuse patient records maintained by the program including their disclosure and use for civil or criminal proceedings which may arise out of the report of suspected child abuse and neglect.
(d) Applicability to recipients of infor mation (1) Restriction on use of informa tion. The restriction on the use of any information subject to these regula tions to initiate or substantiate any criminal charges against a patient o to conduct any criminal investigation of a patient applies to any person who obtains that information from a feder ally assisted alcohol or drug abuse pro gram, regardless of the status of the person obtaining the information or o whether the information was obtained in accordance with these regulations This restriction on use bars, among other things, the introduction of that information as evidence in a criminal proceeding and any other use of the information to investigate or prosecute a patient with respect to a suspected crime. Information obtained by undercover agents or informants (see §2.17) or through patient access (see §2.23) is subject to the restriction on use.
(2) Restrictions on disclosures—Third party payers, administrative entities, and others. The restrictions on disclosure in these regulations apply to:
(i) Third party payers with regard to records disclosed to them by federally assisted alcohol or drug abuse programs;
(ii) Entities having direct administrative control over programs with regard to information communicated to them by the program under §2.12(c)(3); and
(iii) Persons who receive patient records directly from a federally assisted alcohol or drug abuse program and who are notified of the restrictions on redisclosure of the records in accordance with §2.32 of these regulations.
(e) Explanation of applicability—(1) Coverage. These regulations cover any information (including information on referral and intake) about alcohol and drug abuse patients obtained by a program (as the terms "patient" and "program" are defined in §2.11) if the program is federally assisted in any manner described in §2.12(b). Coverage includes, but is not limited to, those treatment or rehabilitation programs, employee assistance programs, programs within general hospitals, school
based programs, and private practitioners who hold themselves out as providing, and provide alcohol or drug abuse diagnosis, treatment, or referral for treatment. However, these regulations would not apply, for example, to emergency room personnel who refer a patient to the intensive care unit for an apparent overdose, unless the primary function of such personnel is the provision of alcohol or drug abuse diagnosis, treatment or referral and they are identified as providing such services or the emergency room has promoted itself to the community as a provider of such services.
(2) Federal assistance to program required. If a patient's alcohol or drug abuse diagnosis, treatment, or referral for treatment is not provided by a program which is federally conducted, regulated or supported in a manner which constitutes Federal assistance under §2.12(b), that patient's record is not covered by these regulations. Thus, it is possible for an individual patient to benefit from Federal support and not be covered by the confidentiality regulations because the program in which the patient is enrolled is not federally assisted as defined in §2.12(b). For example, if a Federal court placed an individual in a private for-profit program and made a payment to the program on behalf of that individual, that patient's record would not be covered by these regulations unless the program itself received Federal assistance as defined by §2.12(b).
(3) Information to which restrictions are applicable. Whether a restriction is on use or disclosure affects the type of information which may be available. The restrictions on disclosure apply to any information which would identify a patient as an alcohol or drug abuser. The restriction on use of information to bring criminal charges against a patient for a crime applies to any information obtained by the program for the purpose of diagnosis, treatment, or referral for treatment of alcohol or drug abuse. (Note that restrictions on use and disclosure apply to recipients of information under §2.12(d).)
(4) How type of diagnosis affects coverage. These regulations cover any record of a diagnosis identifying a patient as an alcohol or drug abuser
which is prepared in connection with the treatment or referral for treatment of alcohol or drug abuse. A diagnosis prepared for the purpose of treatment or referral for treatment but which is not so used is covered by these regulations. The following are not covered by these regulations:
(i) Diagnosis which is made solely for the purpose of providing evidence for use by law enforcement authorities; or
(ii) A diagnosis of drug overdose or alcohol intoxication which clearly shows that the individual involved is not an alcohol or drug abuser (e.g., involuntary ingestion of alcohol or drugs or reaction to a prescribed dosage of one or more drugs).
[52 FR 21809, June 9, 1987; 52 FR 42061, Nov. 2, 1987, as amended at 60 FR 22297, May 5, 1995] §2.13 Confidentiality restrictions.
(a) General. The patient records to which these regulations apply may be disclosed or used only as permitted by these regulations and may not otherwise be disclosed or used in any civil, criminal, administrative, or legislative proceedings conducted by any Federal, State, or local authority. Any disclosure made under these regulations must be limited to that information which is necessary to carry out the purpose of the disclosure.
(b) Unconditional compliance required. The restrictions on disclosure and use in these regulations apply whether the holder of the information believes that the person seeking the information already has it, has other means of obtaining it, is a law enforcement or other official, has obtained a subpoena, or asserts any other justification for a disclosure or use which is not permitted by these regulations.
(c) Acknowledging the presence of patients: Responding to requests. (1) The presence of an identified patient in a facility or component of a facility which is publicly identified as a place where only alcohol or drug abuse diagnosis, treatment, or referral is provided may be acknowledged only if the patient's written consent is obtained in accordance with subpart C of these regulations or if an authorizing court order is entered in accordance with subpart E of these regulations. The regulations permit acknowledgement
of the presence of an identified patient in a facility or part of a facility if the facility is not publicy identified as only an alcohol or drug abuse diagnosis, treatment or referral facility, and if the acknowledgement does not reveal that the patient is an alcohol or drug abuser.
(2) Any answer to a request for a disclosure of patient records which is not permissible under these regulations must be made in a way that will not affirmatively reveal that an identified individual has been, or is being diagnosed or treated for alcohol or drug abuse. An inquiring party may be given a copy of these regulations and advised that they restrict the disclosure of alcohol or drug abuse patient records, but may not be told affirmatively that the regulations restrict the disclosure of the records of an identified patient. The regulations do not restrict a disclosure that an identified individual is not and never has been a patient.
§2.14 Minor patients.
(a) Definition of minor. As used in these regulations the term "minor" means a person who has not attained the age of majority specified in the applicable State law, or if no age of majority is specified in the applicable State law, the age of eighteen years.
(b) State law not requiring parental consent to treatment. If a minor patient acting alone has the legal capacity under the applicable State law to apply for and obtain alcohol or drug abuse treatment, any written consent for disclosure authorized under subpart C of these regulations may be given only by the minor patient. This restriction includes, but is not limited to, any disclosure of patient identifying information to the parent or guardian of a minor patient for the purpose of obtaining financial reimbursement. These regulations do not prohibit a program from refusing to provide treatment until the minor patient consents to the disclosure necessary to obtain reimbursement, but refusal to provide treatment may be prohibited under a State or local law requiring the program to furnish the service irrespective of ability to pay.
(c) State law requiring parental consent to treatment. (1) Where State law re
quires consent of a parent, guardian, or other person for a minor to obtain alcohol or drug abuse treatment, any written consent for disclosure authorized under subpart C of these regulations must be given by both the minor and his or her parent, guardian, or other person authorized under State law to act in the minor's behalf.
(2) Where State law requires parental consent to treatment the fact of a minor's application for treatment may be communicated to the minor's parent, guardian, or other person authorized under State law to act in the minor's behalf only if:
(i) The minor has given written consent to the disclosure in accordance with subpart C of these regulations or
(ii) The minor lacks the capacity to make a rational choice regarding such consent as judged by the program director under paragraph (d) of this section.
(d) Minor applicant for services lacks capacity for rational choice. Facts relevant to reducing a threat to the life or physical well being of the applicant or any other individual may be disclosed to the parent, guardian, or other person authorized under State law to act in the minor's behalf if the program director judges that:
(1) A minor applicant for services lacks capacity because of extreme youth or mental or physical condition to make a rational decision on whether to consent to a disclosure under subpart C of these regulations to his or her parent, guardian, or other person authorized under State law to act in the minor's behalf, and
(2) The applicant's situation poses a substantial threat to the life or physical well being of the applicant or any other individual which may be reduced by communicating relevant facts to the minor's parent, guardian, or other person authorized under State law to act in the minor's behalf.
§2.15 Incompetent and deceased patients.
(a) Incompetent patients other than minors (1) Adjudication of incompetence. In the case of a patient who has been adjudicated as lacking the capacity, for any reason other than insufficient age, to manage his or her own affairs,
any consent which is required under these regulations may be given by the guardian or other person authorized under State law to act in the patient's behalf.
(2) No adjudication of incompetency. For any period for which the program director determines that a patient, other than a minor or one who has been adjudicated incompetent, suffers from a medical condition that prevents knowing or effective action on his or her own behalf, the program director may exercise the right of the patient to consent to a disclosure under subpart C of these regulations for the sole purpose of obtaining payment for services from a third party payer.
(b) Deceased patients—(1) Vital statistics. These regulations do not restrict the disclosure of patient identifying information relating to the cause death of a patient under laws requiring the collection of death or other vital statistics or permitting inquiry into the cause of death.
(2) Consent by personal representative. Any other disclosure of information identifying a deceased patient as an alcohol or drug abuser is subject to these regulations. If a written consent to the disclosure is required, that consent may be given by an executor, administrator, or other personal representative appointed under applicable State law. If there is no such appointment the consent may be given by the patient's spouse or, if none, by any responsible member of the patient's family.
§2.16 Security for written records.
(a) Written records which are subject to these regulations must be maintained in a secure room, locked file cabinet, safe or other similar container when not in use; and
(b) Each program shall adopt in writing procedures which regulate and control access to and use of written records which are subject to these regulations.
§2.17 Undercover agents and informants.
(a) Restrictions on placement. Except as specifically authorized by a court order granted under §2.67 of these regulations, no program may knowingly
employ, or enroll as a patient, any undercover agent or informant.
(b) Restriction on use of information. No information obtained by an undercover agent or informant, whether or not that undercover agent or informant is placed in a program pursuant to an authorizing court order, may be used to criminally investigate or prosecute any patient.
[52 FR 21809, June 9, 1987; 52 FR 42061, Nov. 2, 1987]
§2.18 Restrictions on the use of identification cards.
No person may require any patient to carry on his or her person while away from the program premises any card or other object which would identify the patient as an alcohol or drug abuser. This section does not prohibit a person from requiring patients to use or carry cards or other identification objects on the premises of a program.
§2.19 Disposition of records by discontinued programs.
(a) General. If a program discontinues operations or is taken over or acquired by another program, it must purge patient identifying information from its records or destroy the records unless
(1) The patient who is the subject of the records gives written consent (meeting the requirements of §2.31) to a transfer of the records to the acquiring program or to any other program designated in the consent (the manner of obtaining this consent must minimize the likelihood of a disclosure of patient identifying information to a third party); or
(2) There is a legal requirement that the records be kept for a period specified by law which does not expire until after the discontinuation or acquisition of the program.
(b) Procedure where retention period required by law. If paragraph (a)(2) of this section applies, the records must be:
(1) Sealed in envelopes or other containers labeled as follows: "Records of [insert name of program] required to be maintained under [insert citation to statute, regulation, court order or other legal authority requiring that records be kept] until a date not later than [insert appropriate date]"; and
(2) Held under the restrictions of these regulations by a responsible person who must, as soon as practicable after the end of the retention period specified on the label, destroy the records.
§ 2.20 Relationship to State laws.
The statutes authorizing these regulations (42 U.S.C. 290ee-3 and 42 U.S.C. 290dd-3) do not preempt the field of law which they cover to the exclusion of all State laws in that field. If a disclosure permitted under these regulations is prohibited under State law, neither these regulations nor the authorizing statutes may be construed to authorize any violation of that State law. However, no State law may either authorize or compel any disclosure prohibited by these regulations.
§2.21 Relationship to Federal statutes protecting research subjects against compulsory disclosure of their identity.
(a) Research privilege description. There may be concurrent coverage of patient identifying information by these regulations and by administrative action taken under: Section 303(a) of the Public Health Service Act (42 U.S.C. 242a(a) and the implementing regulations at 42 CFR part 2a); or section 502(c) of the Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S.C. 872(c) and the implementing regulations at 21 CFR 1316.21). These "research privilege" statutes confer on the Secretary of Health and Human Services and on the Attorney General, respectively, the power to authorize researchers conducting certain types of research to withhold from all persons not connected with the research the names and other identifying information concerning individuals who are the subjects of the research.
(b) Effect of concurrent coverage. These regulations restrict the disclosure and use of information about patients, while administrative action taken under the research privilege statutes and implementing regulations protects a person engaged in applicable research from being compelled to disclose any identifying characteristics of the individuals who are the subjects of that research. The issuance under subpart E of these regulations of a court order
authorizing a disclosure of information about a patient does not affect an exercise of authority under these research privilege statutes. However, the research privilage granted under 21 CFR 291.505(g) to treatment programs using methadone for maintenance treatment does not protect from compulsory disclosure any imformation which is permitted to be disclosed under those regulations. Thus, if a court order entered in accordance with subpart E of these regulations authorizes a methadone maintenance treatment program to disclose certain information about its patients, that program may not invoke the research privilege under 21 CFR 291.505(g) as a defense to a subpoena for that information.
§2.22 Notice to patients of Federal confidentiality requirements.
(a) Notice required. At the time of admission or as soon threreafter as the patient is capable of rational communication, each program shall:
(1) Communicate to the patient that Federal law and regulations protect the confidentiality of alcohol and drug abuse patient records; and
(2) Give to the patient a summary in writing of the Federal law and regulations.
(b) Required elements of written summary. The written summary of the Federal law and regulations must include:
(1) A general description of the limited circumstances under which a program may acknowledge that an individual is present at a facility or disclose outside the program information identifying a patient as an alcohol or drug abuser.
(2) A statement that violation of the Federal law and regulations by a program is a crime and that suspected violations may be reported to appropriate authorities in accordance with these regulations.
(3) A statement that information related to a patient's commission of a crime on the premises of the program or against personnel of the program is not protected.
(4) A statement that reports of suspected child abuse and neglect made under State law to appropriate State or local authorities are not protected.