January 9, 2018 – The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (“SAMHSA”) announced today that it will hold a public listening session on January 31, 2018 at SAMHSA headquarters in Rockville, MD, regarding the future of the Confidentiality of Substance Use Disorder Patient Records regulations (42 CFR Part 2, also known as “Part 2”).

This is an important opportunity for affected stakeholders make their voices heard. The Legal Action Center encourages current and former patients, and their family members, providers and advocates, to provide comments. The listening session will cover Part 2’s role in patient care, health outcomes, and patient privacy. Individuals and organizations can submit written and oral comments in the public listening session – but space is limited to submit oral comments, so register as soon as possible! Legal Action Center will publish a template soon that stakeholders can use to draft their own comments to SAMHSA about the importance of the Part 2 privacy protections for individuals in treatment for substance use disorders. 

How to participate

  • Register here to appear in person and (optional) make oral comments, before January 22, 2018 at 12 p.m. EST. Spoken comments are limited to three minutes per person. Capacity for in-person attendance is limited, so be sure to register as soon as possible.
  • Register here to attend via teleconference/webcast and (optional) make oral comments, before January 31, 2018 at 8:30 a.m. EST. Spoken comments submitted via teleconference/webcast are limited to three minutes per person. Capacity for the teleconference/webcast participation is also limited, so be sure to register as soon as possible.
  • Submit written comments by Feb. 28, 2018 at 5 p.m. EST. The Legal Action Center will publish a template for oral and written comments and will distribute via email and post to our website soon. Written comments may be submitted electronically or by mail.* There is no page limit to the written comments, and comments can be submitted anonymously to protect the privacy of the commenter.

About the public listening session

The public purpose of the listening session is to determine the effect of Part 2 “on patient care, health outcomes, and patient privacy.” SAMHSA is required by the 21st Century Cures Act to convene the listening session for this purpose, and SAMHSA also indicated that it will accept comments on both “potential regulatory changes and future sub-regulatory guidance.” 

It is critically important for those concerned about the need to protect Part 2’s core privacy guarantees for substance use disorder treatment information to participate in the listening session and provide comments. We anticipate that the listening session will also feature a significant number of organizations and individuals who are in favor of moving the confidentiality standard to the “HIPAA standard,” the minimum privacy protections currently in place for other types of health information as set forth in the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA). Unlike Part 2’s heightened protections and stated policy goal to encourage individuals to enter treatment without fear of prosecution or stigma, HIPAA is much less protective of patient health information. For this reason, we are encouraging people to register early and submit comments describing the importance of Part 2’s protections.

Legal Action Center plans to appear in person to provide our comments, as well as submit written comments prior to the listening session.

Stay up to date

Sign up for our mailing list to continue receiving updates on 42 CFR Part 2, including the forthcoming template for stakeholder comments and an advance copy of Legal Action Center’s comments for the listening session.

* Comments submitted electronically can be emailed to [email protected]. SAMHSA indicates that this is its preferred method for receiving comments. Comments submitted by regular, express, or overnight mail, or by hand delivery or courier, can be delivered to the following address: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), Department of Health and Human Services, Attn: Mitchell Berger, SAMHSA, 5600 Fishers Lane, Room 18E89C, Rockville, MD 20852.

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