While the support of friends and family is especially important, resources and explanations are pivotal in navigating through the mental health maze. I thought it best to share with you what I’ve learned along the way in hopes of easing your journey.
HIPAA is the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act and its function is to provide data privacy and security provisions for safeguarding medical information. This is great, because we all want our medical information secure, right? Right!
This Act was passed in 1996 and has served many of us well. However, there is a great need to have this Act revised to meet the needs of individuals with serious mentally illnesses. I believe that when my son is at his most vulnerable, when he is the most ill, the regulations have made it very difficult for me and my family to keep our son safe.
Tip one: Although medical professionals (psychiatrists, therapists, inpatient facilities…) can’t share information about my son’s illness, they have been known to welcome information I share with them by email, phone, or fax. Yes, it does seem as though I am sending this information into a black hole, but I have been told countless times that medical history and personal observations of behavior are helpful is assessing my son’s condition and determining his treatment.
Tip two: Do not expend energy being angry at medical professionals because they will not release information relating to your ill relative. They are bound by the regulations of HIPAA and they will not budge. My advice to family members is use their energy in self-care. The opportunity to be of help to your loved-one will manifest and you can be rested to meet the challenge.
Tip three: Become involved in your NAMI (National Alliance for Mental Illness) public policy committee and identify legislation to change HIPAA regulations. If we don’t work for change, nothing changes.
From the desk of Ramona Winner, Family Advocate MWC