The parents of two young adults who were addicted to heroin are advocating for families to have greater access to their children’s health records. They say parents’ input is needed because of the nature of addiction, and young adults’ limited decision-making capabilities.
Maureen Fitzpatrick says current health care regulations prevented her from helping her daughter, Erin, receive the treatment she needed. Erin, 21, is undergoing treatment for heroin addiction, and is waiting for a court date to face burglary charges, the Associated Press reports. Erin refused long-term addiction treatment at the age of 16. Her drug test results were not disclosed to her family, so they did not know to seek addiction treatment for her.
Fitzpatrick wants to change federal legislation requiring a minor’s written consent to disclose drug or alcohol treatment to parents. “It’s been doors closed in our face,” she said. “And I really blame some of these laws for not allowing me to get my daughter the care she needed.”
Gregg Wolfe’s son Justin died of a heroin overdose at the age of 21. Gregg is calling for a change to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, so that young adults’ mental health or addiction treatment records can be shared with their parents while they remain on the family’s health insurance. Wolfe says he did not know Justin was using heroin until after he died. Justin had told his doctors and his therapy group about his heroin use, but the information was not shared with his father because Justin was a legal adult.
Margo Kaplan of Rutgers University, who specializes in health law, said she is concerned about changing privacy laws, which are designed to protect young patients from possible abuse. “It’s important to note that weakening these protections will also affect minors with far less supportive parents — minors who want to seek help, are getting treatment, but only feel safe doing so if they can do it without their parents being notified,” she said.
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