Beacon Health Options Urges House to Support ‘OPPS Act’ that Modernizes Federal Privacy Laws to Combat Opioid Epidemic

Bipartisan Legislation Strengthens Substance Use Disorder Treatment

BOSTON – Beacon Health Options (Beacon), a national leader in behavioral health management, announced today its support for the bipartisan Overdose Prevention and Patient Safety Act, “OPPS Act” of 2017 (H.R. 3545).

The legislation was introduced by Congressmen Tim Murphy (R-PA) and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR). The “OPPS Act” simplifies and aligns the Code of Federal Regulations Part 2 (42 CFR Part 2) with existing confidentiality protections under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) for the purposes of health care treatment, payment, and operations. It also strengthens protections against the use of substance use disorder (SUD) records in criminal proceedings. Currently, under 42 CFR Part 2, information about an individual’s substance use disorder is not permitted to be shared with the entire medical team treating that person unless the patient has given written consent for each of those providers.

“Beacon applauds Congressmen Murphy and Blumenauer for introducing the Overdose Prevention and Patient Safety Act and urges Congressional leaders to approve this legislation as soon as possible,” said Dr. Hal Levine, Beacon Health Options Chief Medical Officer. “The current segregation of SUD treatment records can be harmful and possibly deadly. If a doctor cannot review a patient’s treatment history before prescribing opioids or other drugs, it can lead to a relapse for a person in recovery, and worst case scenario, an overdose or death.”

Although the data is preliminary, according to a June 5, 2017 article in The New York Times, the best estimate regarding deaths due to drug overdose in 2016 is that, nationwide, it rose 19 percent over the previous year. All evidence suggests the problem is worsening in 2017. In Massachusetts, where Beacon is headquartered, the state’s Department of Public Health first-quarter report on opioid-related deaths, such deaths have increased by almost 21 percent, from 1,651 in 2015, to 1,993 in 2016. In the first quarter of 2017, there have been 172 confirmed opioid overdose deaths, plus an additional 242 to 307 that have not been confirmed.

Dr. Levine added, “We are in the midst of the one of the worst SUD crises our nation has ever known. We need to use every tool available to effectively treat heroin and opioid misuse so it can no longer devastate families and destroy communities. Passing H.R 3545 is an important step toward achieving that goal.”