Long-term Advocacy Effort Pays Off with Patient-Centered Changes to 42 CFR Part 2 Privacy Regulations

Persons with a substance use disorder (SUD) or history of SUD treatment will now have easier access to fully-informed, comprehensive healthcare with passage of the Protecting Jessica Grubb’s Legacy Act, included in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act passed by Congress and signed into law by the President on Friday, March 27.

Netsmart has advocated for nearly 10 years on behalf of its human services and post-acute clients and other providers across the country for a common-sense privacy policy to more easily enable whole-person care for people with substance use disorders. Netsmart was a leader in advocacy to amend 42 CFR Part 2, and a founding member of the Behavioral Health IT (BHIT) Coalition, a group of more than a dozen major associations, providers and patient advocacy organizations dedicated to advancing public policy for technology to improve the lives of people with mental health and substance use disorders.

Netsmart was an early and active member of the Partnership to Amend 42 CFR Part 2, a coalition of addiction treatment, patient advocacy and behavioral health provider organizations, including the American Society of Addiction Medicine, the National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and Centerstone. The Partnership’s focus is on updating 42 CFR Part 2 so that people with SUD can receive the same level of integrated care as a person with diabetes or other physical health issues.

"ABHW established and chaired The Partnership to Amend 42 CFR Part 2 and we would like to thank Netsmart for the integral role they played in the Partnership and in helping move this legislation over the finish line," said Pamela Greenberg, MPP, President and CEO, Association for Behavioral Health and Wellness. "The new Part 2 law will allow for the appropriate sharing of medical and substance use disorder records which is essential for providing accurate diagnoses, whole person coordinated care and effective treatment," according to Greenberg.

"Simply put, amending this ruling will save lives. By applying the gold standard of HIPAA, we can provide better coordination of care and a higher standard of care for our patients who are at the greatest risk," said Centerstone CEO David Guth.

The Protecting Jessica Grubb’s Legacy Act promotes health equity and coordinated care for persons with SUD by modifying the decades old 42 CFR Part 2 privacy regulations to permit a single patient consent for sharing of their SUD-related health data with their care provider. The consent also covers redisclosure of the health data to covered entities and business associates as defined under HIPAA and Part 2 treatment programs within the context of healthcare treatment, payment and operations. For example, the doctor who obtained the initial consent could include SUD treatment and prescribing information in a referral to a specialist.

This simplified consent process helps prevent delays in diagnosis and treatment for persons with a substance use disorder, many of whom have untreated co-occurring medical conditions. It also reduces the risk to patients from errors in medical treatment or prescribing by giving providers a complete view of the person’s health – physical and mental.

The Legacy Act also includes heightened privacy protections and an unprecedented set of anti-discrimination protections to prevent discrimination against SUD patients when accessing health care, employment, housing, courts, social services or any services provided under federal funding. The Legacy Act transitions from an antiquated and underutilized criminal enforcement process to civil penalties for violations or health data breaches, in accordance with HIPAA.

"Passage of this legislation removes a significant barrier for our clients and providers nationwide seeking to deliver fully-informed diagnosis and treatment to persons with a substance use disorder or history of substance use treatment," said Netsmart Executive Vice President Kevin Scalia. "It also supports the ultimate goal of consent — that any person be able to easily share his or her health data with their healthcare providers if they so desire. Finally, but significantly, it strengthens information breach, anti-discrimination and patient privacy protections for substance use disorder patients that exceed both existing Part 2 and HIPAA protections, as well as adding enforcement from the HHS Office for Civil Rights."

"This success comes after nearly a decade of effort coordinated by an investment we made in government advocacy to help bring a voice for our human services and post-acute clients to this and other key legislative and regulatory issues that impact those they serve," said Netsmart CEO Mike Valentine. "It is gratifying to see all this effort and investment come to fruition after a long road."

About Netsmart

Netsmart is a healthcare technology company that provides electronic health records, data analytics tools, care coordination and telehealth solutions, among others to more than 35,000 healthcare organizations. As the largest human services and post-acute care technology provider, Netsmart helps organizations improve the health and well-being of the communities we collectively serve. To learn more, visit https://www.ntst.com/.

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Contacts

Netsmart Media Contact:
Vince Koehler
vkoehler@ntst.com
913.272.2235