When entering a drug treatment center, it is common to wonder how your privacy is going to be affected. Fortunately, there are laws and regulations enacted to protect you and ensure your privacy as you commit yourself to a better life. Before entering a treatment center, you can contact them and ask if their institutions follow privacy policies. While policies may differ from one facility to another, centers must follow general guidelines. You should always feel empowered to decide whether you feel comfortable with how a program handles client information.

In 1996, the Federal Government created confidentiality laws to better protect your information under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). All federally assisted drug and alcohol treatment centers are required to follow this law. The law bans the release of patient information unless the client gives consent or if a release is authorized under qualifying regulations. Any treatment center that violates the rules can face a fine ranging from $500 for the first offense and as much as $5,000 for any additional offenses.

Licensed or state-certified employees run the risk of losing their license or certifications if the laws are violated. Consequently, in the event that the information is released against the client’s will, they have the option to sue anyone if it was done without their consent.

When someone is more confident in the details of their treatment or that their diagnosis will not be shared with others without consent, this removes a huge barrier that could have prevented them from going to treatment. This reason alone prompted the government to enact these confidentiality laws.

When an individual completes their intake interviews, they will receive a copy of the facility’s confidentiality and privacy guidelines, which outline the rights they have as a client at a given facility. In a majority of these cases, treatment center staff members also must abide by these confidentiality agreements and are required to sign.

Who Needs Privacy in Residential Treatment?

clinician ensures privacy in addiction treatment to client

If you are entering residential treatment, you are the one who needs privacy. All clients require privacy upon entering residential treatment. The only scenario where you will not be granted privacy upon entering treatment is if you waive your right to it. You have the right to services that will enhance your ability to live independently, productively, and with dignity in your community. Privacy is your right as a client, and you must contact a treatment center and make sure that their ideas and values align with your requirements before you sign up for treatment.

Treatment centers are the sole owners of the information that is collected on site, and only they will have access to obtain information that you gave voluntarily. In all situations, a client is entitled to their right to privacy, and the treatment center must follow these laws and provide them with this security.

How Do Treatment Centers Ensure One’s Privacy?

HIPAA was the first federal law to address privacy and security standards broadly and provide federal protection to clients attending treatment. Sometimes, those who wish to seek treatment will not pursue it because they want or need the strictest confidentiality and think they may not receive it. This can invoke fear in many of those would be clients, and some, as a result, will not enter treatment and could succumb to their addiction. HIPAA laws are enforced even more intricately in the cases of substance abuse treatment to ensure all clients the right to privacy.

As mentioned earlier, any treatment center caught violating these laws is subject to hefty fines or loss of its certifications. A treatment center that is not certified will not be allowed to operate in many states due to new stricter laws attempting to stop the rise of fraud. The strict rules put in place by the government make it so that treatment centers must ensure your privacy to avoid them being shut down. It is not only against the law to release information without consent, but it is just bad business to do so. The centers can be fined and lose their license by the government, but you also have the right to sue them for violating these laws.

Clients also have the right to know how their personal information will be used or shared. Some facilities use the information to compile statistics and case studies regarding treatment, but these reports will never contain sensitive or private information.

How to Find a Rehab That Offers the Highest Degree of Privacy

Once you decide residential treatment is a useful treatment modality, you will face the formidable task of selecting one of the thousands of facilities available. The right fit is essential between clients and facilities, and it is critical to optimize the chances of a desirable outcome. Residential facilities vary widely in their goals, their orientation, treatment paradigms, and specific features of their treatment setting. Clients who seek treatment are urged to ask many questions before committing to a particular program. High-quality residential treatment facilities will share common characteristics to look for. They will offer the highest degree of privacy and care for their clients.


High-quality facilities subject themselves to strict standards for evidence-based care, documentation, medication storage and handling, and other key aspects. The center must go through a rigorous process to obtain these licenses.

Fully Credentialed Staff

Practitioners who work in residential facilities must be sensitive to the dynamics of each client. Clients often exhibit subtle hints that the level of treatment they are receiving is not adequate, and they could require more intensive treatment. Prior experience for these staff members is necessary so that they can pick up on these cues. Having seasoned professionals on board also helps to ensure they’re well versed in HIPAA laws and compliance.

As mentioned above, anyone who attends treatment has the right to privacy in treatment. The most crucial information to seek out when determining where to participate is accreditations. Only a select few can obtain these licenses that decide they are operating under the strict HIPAA laws. You need to receive a Note of Privacy Practices before entering a treatment program and give the facility proof that you acknowledged this note. You have the right to decide how and with whom your protected health information is shared.

As long as you remember that you’re entitled to privacy, it will allow you to have a more successful stint in treatment. When it comes to alcohol or drug abuse you are required to provide permission for this information to be shared separately. It is strictly a personal decision, but you hold all the power in how you want this to be distributed. It may be useful, however, if you take medications to allow the release of this information so that you can be treated more effectively.

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