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Releasing Records of Substance-abusing Minor

Q: A 16-year-old patient has admitted to extensive substance abuse, which is documented in his medical record. His father is requesting the record. Must we obtain the patient's authorization prior to releasing?

A: Under federal law (42 CFR, part 2), records from substance abuse treatment facilities receive special protection and facilities may not release them without written patient authorization, regardless of the patient's age.

State laws vary regarding the privacy rights of minors. If your facility qualifies as a substance abuse treatment facility, then these laws apply to you. Your legal counsel will advise you on this point. However, obtaining patient authorization to release information in this situation is advised. Ensure that parents and their teens are aware of the potential limits and rules of medical record privacy.