2016 Amendments Permit Disclosure for Care Coordination Only Under State Law

One of the more challenging aspects of medical records management are federal and state legalities around release of substance abuse and mental health patient information. This year, the Iowa General Assembly passed legislation, Senate File 2144, to permit disclosure of otherwise confidential behavioral health information under Iowa law for care coordination purposes. SF 2144 was signed by Governor Branstad on April 6 and became effective on that day.

SF 2144 first amends Iowa Code section 125.37, confidentiality of substance abuse treatment facility records, to permit disclosure of patient records for care coordination purposes “if not otherwise restricted by federal law or regulation.” In the same way, SF 2144 amends Iowa Code chapter 228, disclosure of mental health and psychological information, to permit disclosure of confidential mental health information for care coordination purposes “if not otherwise restricted by federal law or regulation.” Care coordination is defined by reference to Iowa Code section 135.154* as “the management of all aspects of a patient’s care to improve health care quality.”

Behavioral health providers are encouraged to remain cautious before disclosing sensitive substance abuse and mental health patient information within SF 2144’s broadly defined context of care coordination. To the extent that this new Iowa law conflicts with federal laws and regulations, federal law prevails. Too, permissible disclosures under SF 2144 must satisfy conditions, such as those set forth in section 228.2, governing permissible disclosures.

SF 2144 can be found at this link: https://www.legis.iowa.gov/legislation/BillBook?ga=%24selectedGa.generalAssemblyID&ba=SF2144.

*Note:  Upon transfer of the Iowa Health Information Network (IHIN) from the Iowa Department of Public Health to a nonprofit entity, SF 2144’s definitional references to section 135.154 will change to Iowa Code section 135D.2.