Does a rehab for alcoholics tell the police about patients under age 21? Absolutely not! This is forbidden by federal law under the HIPAA Act, which stands for Health Insurance and Portability Act. It’s been the law since 1996. Under this law, all medical information may not be revealed to anyone who doesn’t have a specific and legal right to know. This typically only includes medical professionals like doctors, hospitals and pharmacists directly related to your care. It also includes insurance companies but only those paying for your care.
Doctors may discuss your case with other doctors and pharmacists, but there must be a valid reason to do so. They can’t just chat about you in general, and there has to be a medical need for the discussion in the first place. Drug rehabs understand the stigma attached to drug abuse and treatment. They are discreet anyway, but the HIPAA law guarantees your privacy.
Drugs and Law Enforcement
The police can access some medical information in some states, especially during the investigation of certain drug diversion crimes. Many states allow law enforcement to access the prescription drug database that contains records for all controlled substances dispensed in that state. Even then, the police are supposed to follow a procedure that requires a certain set of circumstances. For example, they can’t just look up someone’s prescription drug record for the fun of it. There must be an active investigation, and only certain members of law enforcement are authorized to access the information. All prescription databases have stringent access protocols. Usernames and passwords attached to a particular user’s identity are required to get into the system. Anyone caught accessing information without legal authorization is subject to federal prosecution.
Rehabs are Discreet
If you’re in drug rehab for alcohol abuse, you’re where you need to be. Don’t worry about the facility telling on you for being underage. They can’t. They won’t. Even if they could, they wouldn’t. They want to help you. Telling the police on you wouldn’t be very helpful.
Arresting people for drug and alcohol abuse doesn’t solve the problem at all. If it did, no one would ever be incarcerated for drugs or alcohol more than once, and repeat arrests for substance-abuse crimes are common. Although someone driving while drunk should be arrested for the safety of others, the arrest won’t necessarily stop the person from doing the same thing again.
This is why courts often have alcohol and drug diversion programs. Arrests only stop the person that one time. Treatment may stop them from abusing alcohol and driving while drunk permanently. Although some people arrested for drunk driving may be scared straight after one arrest, these individuals are not likely addicted. They just happened to be caught driving with a blood alcohol level exceeding the legal limit in their state.
This kind of individual can control their future behavior and make arrangements for a safe ride back home before they go out drinking. In contrast, an alcohol addict has lost control of the substance and will likely drink and drive again.
Drug and Alcohol Court-Mandated Treatment
The only exception to this rule of privacy from the police while in drug and alcohol treatment is if you are mandated by a court to attend alcohol rehab treatment. Of course, in order for this to occur, you must have already been arrested for an alcohol-related crime, so the police are already involved. The court has a right to know how you are progressing in your treatment, but even this right is limited.
The rehab still can’t typically release specific treatment information. If you told a counselor something, this is still protected under HIPAA law, as long as what you disclosed isn’t something related to mandatory reporting laws. For example, if you said you were going to kill someone, or you knew of a child in danger, the counselor would likely have to report that to the authorities. But if it’s something you revealed about yourself or some trauma in your past, then that stays confidential.
If you’re engaged in underage drinking, stop. The consequences are serious, not worth it and could follow you for the rest of your life. If you’re addicted and cannot stop, help is available. It’s as close as the next paragraph.
Help for Alcohol Abuse
Don’t let fears about law enforcement prevent you from getting the help you need. We can help you find the right alcohol treatment facility for you. We’re drug counselors, and it’s what we do. Just call us at 833-820-2922 24 hours a day. There is hope. We’ll give you referrals and advice to set you on the right path again.