County of Marin Health and Human Services

Families and Confidentiality FAQ

My loved one is a client of Mental Health and Substance Use Services and I want to know about their care and treatment, how do I access this?

There are several Federal regulations known as 42 C.F.R Part 2 and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) that govern the maintenance, use and disclosure of health information including how, when and to whom it can be disclosed. Under both, this information is considered private and protected health information. In fact, 42 C.F.R. Part 2 prohibits any “disclosure” without explicit written permission. Disclosures include any communication of information about an identified patient or of information that would identify someone as a patient or as a drug or alcohol abuser, including verification of information that is already known by the person making the inquiry. Only the client can release this information. At MHSUS we work with clients to provide us with the ability to communicate with families and loved ones by providing them with a “Releases of Information” (ROI).

What is a Release of Information form?

This is a form that the client signs which identifies a family member or loved one that the mental health worker can speak to about their treatment. The worker may only release what is appropriate and necessary. These releases are valid for one (1) year and may be “revoked” by the client for any reason that must be discussed with their worker and submitted to Medical Records in writing. After a release has been revoked, a MHSUS worker cannot release or provide any information about them or their treatment to anyone who does not have a current and signed release.

My loved one revoked a release of information, what can I do?

When someone revokes a release of information, this forbids the worker to discuss any aspect of their care, treatment or participation with anyone who the client has not authorized. Workers can receive information from families. Please utilize phone or email to continue to provide information about your loved one. When a release of information has been revoked we cannot confirm participation in a program or any protected health information.

What if my loved one refuses to sign an ROI?

MHSUS employees are trained to discuss importance of family contact with all clients. Releases of Information are provided on an as needed basis as well as yearly. If you can talk to your loved one, tell them how it would be helpful for you to be able to be supportive to them by having the ability to speak with staff about their treatment. You can still provide information to mental health workers about your loved one even if there is no ROI in place. The MHSUS staff cannot respond directly to questions; however they can receive information from you.

Mental Health and Substance Use Services (MHSUS) changed its name to Behavioral Health and Recovery Services (BHRS).  As such, all references in existing departmental policies and procedures to MHSUS can be understood to reference BHRS as well.