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Patient Records: Confidentiality and Disclosure – Cal. Health & Safety Code § 11845.5.

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All substance abuse treatment records are confidential and privileged to the patient and may only be disclosed according to the statute, irrespective of whether the patient is currently a client, or was formerly a client of a substance abuse treatment facility.

Disclosure With Consent

A patient may consent to the disclosure of their records in writing, provided that the release includes the purposes of the disclosure and is signed by the client. The consent requirements are less stringent than the Part 2 requirements. A parent, guardian, or conservator may consent to disclosure on behalf of a minor, ward, or conservatee.

Disclosure Without Consent

Substance abuse treatment information may be disclosed without the client’s consent in the three circumstances permitted by Part 2: in a medical emergency for purposes of providing treatment to the client, for research purposes, and for audit purposes. Unlike Part 2, however, the statute does not require researchers to provide a written statement certifying that an independent group has reviewed the research protocol to ensure that patient identifying information is protected, and that the potential benefits of the research outweighs the risk of disclosure. The statute further permits disclosure between professionals employed by the treatment program for the purpose of providing service to the client, which is not addressed in Part 2.

Disclosure Pursuant to Court Order

Substance abuse treatment information may also be disclosed pursuant to a court order after an application showing probable cause for the disclosure, pursuant to  Cal. Penal Code§ 1524(c), which requires a special master to be appointed and to accompany the person who will serve the warrant; the special master has the authority to search the area indicated in the warrant if the party fails to provide the items requested. The special master shall seal the items if the party states that the item should not be disclosed. At the hearing, the party may raise issues about the evidence or claim privilege as permitted by law. Except by court order properly granted, no record may be used to initiate or substantiate any criminal charges or investigation against a patient. The statute is less specific than Part 2 regarding what purpose would justify a court to order disclosure, but is more specific regarding what procedures are to be followed if a court does order disclosure.

Current as of June 2015