Campaign aims to raise awareness of privacy, civil rights of those treated for opioid addiction

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The Office for Civil Rights at HHS has launched a campaign to educate the public of their civil rights protections when seeking treatment and recovery services for opioid use disorder.

The civil rights office released the campaign in response to President Donald Trump's signing of the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act Oct. 24 to increase the country's opioid crisis response efforts. In October 2017, HHS declared the opioid crisis a public health emergency.

The campaign aims to ensure covered entities are aware of their obligations under federal nondiscrimination laws, such as legislation that prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability or limited English proficiency. It also will highlight various disability rights protections that may apply to patients in recovery from an opioid addiction.

The campaign complements the civil rights office's guidance on how physicians can share information to help patients suffering from opioid use disorder while adhering to HIPAA, which the office released in 2017. The goal is to ensure that HIPAA supports, rather than hinders, physicians from accessing and sharing health information in a way that helps patients addicted to opioids.

"Persons getting help for an opioid use disorder are protected by our civil rights laws throughout their treatment and recovery," said Roger Severino, director of the civil rights office. "Discrimination, bias and stereotypical beliefs about persons recovering from an opioid addiction can lead to unnecessary and unlawful barriers to health and social services that are key to addressing the opioid crisis."

To learn more about the public education campaign and HIPAA guidance related to the opioid crisis, click here.

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