Regina Davis: Martha Plotkin: October 7, 2010
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For Immediate Release
Guide Released to Address Criminal Justice/Mental Health Information Sharing New York—Large numbers of people with mental illness are cycling through the nation’s criminal justice system—often resulting in poor outcomes for the individuals’ recovery; for public safety; and for policing, courts and corrections operations. Criminal justice officials are eager to work with health professionals to better use both systems’ information, when appropriate, to reduce criminal justice involvement among people with mental illnesses and provide better links to treatment. The Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center released a new publication today, Information Sharing in Criminal Justice-Mental Health Collaborations: Working with HIPAA [the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996] and Other Privacy Laws, to address barriers to cross-systems information sharing while complying with legal privacy mandates. “Let’s face it, misperceptions remain about how HIPAA and other laws limit the ability of mental health, law enforcement, court, and corrections personnel to share information to address safety concerns, improve responses to individuals with mental illnesses, and address their overrepresentation in jails and prisons,” said New York State Assemblyman and CSG Justice Center Chair Jeffrion Aubry. “This guide discusses ways to collaborate within the parameters of privacy laws while reducing taxpayer spending and yielding better results for people with mental illnesses and the systems they touch.” Information Sharing in Criminal Justice-Mental Health Collaborations was supported by the U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Assistance, The guide explains the federal legal framework and how it relates to state laws. It describes how HIPAA and 42 CFR Part 2 (privacy regulations related to substance use treatment) may affect exchanges among behavioral health care, law enforcement, courts, jail and prison, and probation and parole professionals. It reviews the circumstances under which protected health information can be released and received, and offers answers to scenariobased frequently asked questions. The guide was developed through advice from practitioners throughout the criminal justice and mental health systems, including program examples from members of the National Association of Counties. Information Sharing in Criminal Justice-Mental Health Collaborations is available as a free download at http://consensusproject.org/jc_publications/info-sharing. Additional criminal justice-mental health resources can be found at www.consensusproject.org. The Council of State Governments Justice Center is a national nonprofit organization that serves policymakers at the local, state, and federal levels from all branches of government. The Justice Center provides practical, nonpartisan advice and consensus-driven strategies—informed by available evidence—to increase public safety and strengthen communities.