National Council for Behavioral Health

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Sophia Majlessi
SophiaM@TheNationalCouncil.org
(202) 621-1631

WASHINGTON, D.C. (February 19, 2020) – In an attempt to prevent immigrant youths from receiving asylum, the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) has been sharing confidential psychotherapy notes with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Under the Health Information Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Privacy Rule, increased special privacy protections are in place for psychotherapy notes. The disclosure of psychotherapy notes requires permission from the patient to release information – HIPAA only permits the sharing of psychotherapy notes with patient authorization.

The National Council for Behavioral Health is alarmed by the unethical mishandling of psychotherapy session notes of immigrant children seeking asylum.

“Detained children have already experienced incomprehensible trauma,” said National Council President and CEO Chuck Ingoglia. “To have ORR act as the legal guardian for children in their custody and then share their psychotherapy notes with ICE not only adds to their trauma, it weaponizes the patient’s personal and confidential interaction. We support the American Psychological Association’s position to immediately halt and do away with this immoral practice.

“This is a profound breach of trust between patient and therapist,” said Ingoglia. “It is not only inappropriate, but it is indefensible to share confidential psychotherapy notes. Under the HIPAA Privacy Rule, protected health information (PIH), including mental health information, requires patient consent prior to disclosure of psychotherapy notes for any reason. We should provide immigrant youth a safe haven to discuss their mental health, not provide evidence to law enforcement.”

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About the National Council for Behavioral Health

The National Council for Behavioral Health is the unifying voice of America’s health care organizations that deliver mental health and addictions treatment and services. Together with our 3,326 member organizations serving over 10 million adults, children and families living with mental illnesses and addictions, the National Council is committed to all Americans having access to comprehensive, high-quality care that affords every opportunity for recovery. The National Council introduced Mental Health First Aid USA and 2 million Americans have been trained.