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Privacy Policy

HIPAA NOTICE OF PRIVACY RULE AND PRACTICES

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) is a broad federal law that is in part designed to provide national standards for protection of certain health information. As required by HIPAA, the federal Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) established regulations, which implement the federal law. These regulations are known as the Privacy Rule.

In general, the Privacy Rule prohibits health care providers from using or disclosing a patient’s protected health information (PHI) without written authorization from the patient except for treatment, payment and health care operations. However, the Privacy Rule provides exceptions to this prohibition for a number of public policy reasons. Such exceptions include, but are not limited to, reporting certain injuries to law enforcement officials, reporting child abuse or vulnerable adult abuse, reporting the occurrence of certain diseases to public health officials, and complying with court orders and subpoenas.

When determining whether a health care provider may use or disclose PHI without the patient’s authorization, both state and federal law must be considered. The Privacy Rule provides an extensive list of permitted disclosures, however, where state laws provide greater privacy protections or privacy rights with respect to patients’ PHI, state laws will apply, overriding HIPAA.

PRIVACY RULE:

This notice describes how mental health information about you may be used and disclosed and how you can get access to this information. Please review it carefully.

This notice of the Privacy Rule describes how we may use and disclose your PHI to carry out treatment, payment or health care operations, and for other purposes that are permitted or required by law. It also describes your rights to access and control your PHI.

PHI: “Protected Health Information” is information about you, including demographic information that could identify you, and that is related to your past, present, and future physical or mental health or condition and related health care services.

Treatment: We will use and disclose your PHI to provide, coordinate, or manage your health care and any related services. This includes the coordination or management of your health care with a third party. An example would be consulting with a referral source, another therapist, or a treating physician or counselor in order to obtain or provide necessary information to diagnose or to treat you.

Payment: Your PHI will be used, as needed, to obtain payment for your mental health care services. For example, sharing your diagnosis and treatment plan may be necessary in order to collect payment from your corresponding insurance company for treatment we have provided to you.

Healthcare Operations: We may use or disclose, as needed, your PHI in order to support the business activities of your counselor’s practice. These activities include, but are not limited to, quality assessment activities, employee review activities, training of interns, licensing, or arranging for other business activities. For example, we may disclose your personal health information to other mental health care providers within Hope Counseling Centers (e.g. practicum students or interns) in order to help facilitate their training. All providers within Hope Counseling Centers are bound by ethical guidelines and required by law to respect and maintain the confidential nature of your PHI. In addition, we may use a sign-in sheet at the registration desk where you will be asked to sign your name and indicate your appointment time. We may also call you by name in the waiting area when your mental health care provider is ready to meet with you. We may also use or disclose your PHI, as necessary, to contact you to remind you of your appointment.

Uses and Disclosures without Consent or Authorization: We may use or disclose your PHI in the following situations without your consent or authorization:

  1. Child Abuse: If a staff member has reason to believe that a child has been, or may be, neglected or physically, emotionally, or sexually abused, he/she is required by law (Fla. Stat. 39.201(1)) to file a report with the appropriate local or state law enforcement agency. In these situations, the disclosure of PHI to the appropriate public or government authority is authorized by law (45 CFR 164.512(b)(1)(ii)).
  2. Adult Abuse: If a staff member has reason to believe that an elderly or disabled person is in a state of abuse, neglect, or exploitation, the staff member is required by law (Fla. Stat. 415.1034(2)) to file a report with the appropriate local or state law enforcement agency. In these situations, the disclosure of PHI to the appropriate public or government authority is authorized by law (45 CFR 164.512(c)(1)(i)).
  3. Serious Threat to Health or Safety: If a staff member determines that there is a probability of imminent physical injury by you to yourself or others, we may disclose relevant PHI to the potential victim, appropriate family members, or medical and law enforcement personnel in order to comply with requirements by the state of Florida (Fla. Stat. 491.0147(3), 45 CFR 164.512(j)(1)(i)).
  4. Health Oversight: If a complaint is filed against your mental health care provider with their respective state licensing board, they have the authority to subpoena PHI from Hope Counseling Centers to that complaint (45 CFR 164.512(d)).
  5. Judicial or Administrative Proceedings: If you are involved in a court proceeding and a request is made for information about your diagnosis and treatment and the records thereof, such information is privileged under state law and will not be released by Hope Counseling Centers, without written authorization from you or your personal or legally appointed representative, or a court order. The privilege does not apply when you are being evaluated for a third party or where the evaluation is court ordered. You will be informed in advance if this is the case (45 CFR 164.512(e)).
  6. Worker’s Compensation: If you file a worker’s compensation claim, Hope Counseling Centers must, upon request of your employer, the insurance carrier, and authorized qualified rehabilitation provider, or the attorney for the employer or insurance carrier, disclose relevant records (which may contain PHI) to those entities (45 CFR 164.512(l)).
  7. Criminal Conduct: If a staff member believes there to be evidence of a crime committed on Hope Counseling Centers’ premises, that staff member is permitted to disclose PHI to the appropriate local or state law enforcement agency (45 CFR 164.512(f)(5)). In situations of observed sexual battery, Hope Counseling Centers is required by law to report the offense (disclosing any necessary PHI in the process) to the appropriate local or state law enforcement agency (Fla. Stat. 794.027).
  8. Public Health Surveillance: Hope Counseling Centers is permitted (and sometimes required) by law to disclose PHI to public health authorities that are authorized by law to collect and receive health information for the purpose of preventing or controlling disease, injury, or disability, including, but not limited to, the reporting of disease, injury, vital events such as birth and death, and the conduct of public health investigations and interventions (45 CFR 164.512(b)(1)(i)).

Client Rights and Hope Counseling Centers Responsibilities:

Client Rights:

  1. Right to Request Restrictions: You have the right to request restrictions on certain uses and disclosures of your PHI. This means that you may request that Hope Counseling Centers not use or disclose any part of your PHI for the purposes of treatment, payment, or healthcare operations. You may also request that any part of your PHI not be disclosed to family members or friends who may be involved in your care or for notification purposes as described in this notice of Privacy Rule and Practices. Your request must state the specific restriction requested and to whom you want the restriction to apply. Hope Counseling Centers is not required to honor a request of restriction. If Hope Counseling Centers believes it is in your best interest to permit use and disclosure of your PHI, your PHI will not be restricted.
  2. Right to Receive Confidential Communications by Alternative Means and at Alternative Locations: You have the right to request and receive confidential communications of PHI by alternative means and at alternative locations (e.g. you may have bills sent to another address if you do not want member of your household to know you are receiving services).
  3. Right to Inspect and Copy: You have the right to inspect or obtain a copy (or both) of PHI in mental health and billing records used to make decisions about you for as long as PHI is maintained in the record. Under federal law, however, you may not inspect or copy the following records; psychotherapy notes, information compiled in reasonable anticipation of, or use in, a civil, criminal, or administrative action or proceeding, and PHI that is subject to law that prohibits access to PHI.
  4. Right to Amend: You have the right to request an amendment of PHI for as long as the PHI is maintained in Hope Counseling Centers’ record. Hope Counseling Centers is not required to honor a request of amendment.
  5. Right to an Accounting: You generally have the right to receive an accounting of disclosures of PHI regarding you.
  6. Right to a Paper Copy: You have the right to obtain a paper copy of this notice from Hope Counseling Centers upon request, even if you have agreed to receive the notice electronically.

Hope Counseling Centers’ Responsibilities:

  1. Hope Counseling Centers is required by law to maintain the privacy of PHI and to provide you with a notice of its legal duties and privacy practices with respect to PHI.
  2. Hope Counseling Centers reserves the right to change the privacy policies and practices described in this notice. Unless Hope Counseling Centers notifies you of any such changes, however, Hope Counseling Centers is required to abide by the terms currently in effect.
  3. If Hope Counseling Centers revises its policies and procedures, it will provide you with a revised notice via mail. Hope Counseling Centers will also make that information available in all of its locations.

Questions and Complaints:

If you are concerned that your privacy rights have been violated or if you disagree with a decision that has been made about access to your records and PHI, please feel free to discuss your concerns with your service provider or other appropriate Hope Counseling Centers staff member.

You may also send a written complaint to the Secretary of the United States Department of Health and Human Services. Hope Counseling Centers can provide you with the appropriate address upon request. You have specific rights under the Privacy Rule. Hope Counseling Centers will not retaliate against you for exercising your right to file a complaint.

If you have any objections to this statement of privacy policies, please contact Hope Counseling Centers to express your concerns.

This notice was published and becomes effective on or before April 14th, 2003. Hope Counseling Center reserves the right to change the terms of this notice and to make the new notice provisions effective for all PHI that Hope Counseling Centers maintains.