70.02.220  <<  70.02.230 >>   70.02.240

Mental health services, confidentiality of recordsPermitted disclosures.

(1) Except as provided in this section, RCW 70.02.050, 71.05.445, 74.09.295, 70.02.210, 70.02.240, 70.02.250, and 70.02.260, or pursuant to a valid authorization under RCW 70.02.030, the fact of admission to a provider for mental health services and all information and records compiled, obtained, or maintained in the course of providing mental health services to either voluntary or involuntary recipients of services at public or private agencies must be confidential.
(2) Information and records related to mental health services, other than those obtained through treatment under chapter 71.34 RCW, may be disclosed only:
(a) In communications between qualified professional persons to meet the requirements of chapter 71.05 RCW, in the provision of services or appropriate referrals, or in the course of guardianship proceedings if provided to a professional person:
(i) Employed by the facility;
(ii) Who has medical responsibility for the patient's care;
(iii) Who is a designated crisis responder;
(iv) Who is providing services under chapter 71.24 RCW;
(v) Who is employed by a state or local correctional facility where the person is confined or supervised; or
(vi) Who is providing evaluation, treatment, or follow-up services under chapter 10.77 RCW;
(b) When the communications regard the special needs of a patient and the necessary circumstances giving rise to such needs and the disclosure is made by a facility providing services to the operator of a facility in which the patient resides or will reside;
(c)(i) When the person receiving services, or his or her guardian, designates persons to whom information or records may be released, or if the person is a minor, when his or her parents make such a designation;
(ii) A public or private agency shall release to a person's next of kin, attorney, personal representative, guardian, or conservator, if any:
(A) The information that the person is presently a patient in the facility or that the person is seriously physically ill;
(B) A statement evaluating the mental and physical condition of the patient, and a statement of the probable duration of the patient's confinement, if such information is requested by the next of kin, attorney, personal representative, guardian, or conservator; and
(iii) Other information requested by the next of kin or attorney as may be necessary to decide whether or not proceedings should be instituted to appoint a guardian or conservator;
(d)(i) To the courts as necessary to the administration of chapter 71.05 RCW or to a court ordering an evaluation or treatment under chapter 10.77 RCW solely for the purpose of preventing the entry of any evaluation or treatment order that is inconsistent with any order entered under chapter 71.05 RCW.
(ii) To a court or its designee in which a motion under chapter 10.77 RCW has been made for involuntary medication of a defendant for the purpose of competency restoration.
(iii) Disclosure under this subsection is mandatory for the purpose of the federal health insurance portability and accountability act;
(e)(i) When a mental health professional or designated crisis responder is requested by a representative of a law enforcement or corrections agency, including a police officer, sheriff, community corrections officer, a municipal attorney, or prosecuting attorney to undertake an investigation or provide treatment under RCW 71.05.150, 10.31.110, or 71.05.153, the mental health professional or designated crisis responder shall, if requested to do so, advise the representative in writing of the results of the investigation including a statement of reasons for the decision to detain or release the person investigated. The written report must be submitted within seventy-two hours of the completion of the investigation or the request from the law enforcement or corrections representative, whichever occurs later.
(ii) Disclosure under this subsection is mandatory for the purposes of the federal health insurance portability and accountability act;
(f) To the attorney of the detained person;
(g) To the prosecuting attorney as necessary to carry out the responsibilities of the office under RCW 71.05.330(2), 71.05.340(1)(b), and 71.05.335. The prosecutor must be provided access to records regarding the committed person's treatment and prognosis, medication, behavior problems, and other records relevant to the issue of whether treatment less restrictive than inpatient treatment is in the best interest of the committed person or others. Information must be disclosed only after giving notice to the committed person and the person's counsel;
(h)(i) To appropriate law enforcement agencies and to a person, when the identity of the person is known to the public or private agency, whose health and safety has been threatened, or who is known to have been repeatedly harassed, by the patient. The person may designate a representative to receive the disclosure. The disclosure must be made by the professional person in charge of the public or private agency or his or her designee and must include the dates of commitment, admission, discharge, or release, authorized or unauthorized absence from the agency's facility, and only any other information that is pertinent to the threat or harassment. The agency or its employees are not civilly liable for the decision to disclose or not, so long as the decision was reached in good faith and without gross negligence.
(ii) Disclosure under this subsection is mandatory for the purposes of the federal health insurance portability and accountability act;
(i)(i) To appropriate corrections and law enforcement agencies all necessary and relevant information in the event of a crisis or emergent situation that poses a significant and imminent risk to the public. The mental health service agency or its employees are not civilly liable for the decision to disclose or not so long as the decision was reached in good faith and without gross negligence.
(ii) Disclosure under this subsection is mandatory for the purposes of the health insurance portability and accountability act;
(j) To the persons designated in RCW 71.05.425 for the purposes described in those sections;
(k) Upon the death of a person. The person's next of kin, personal representative, guardian, or conservator, if any, must be notified. Next of kin who are of legal age and competent must be notified under this section in the following order: Spouse, parents, children, brothers and sisters, and other relatives according to the degree of relation. Access to all records and information compiled, obtained, or maintained in the course of providing services to a deceased patient are governed by RCW 70.02.140;
(l) To mark headstones or otherwise memorialize patients interred at state hospital cemeteries. The department of social and health services shall make available the name, date of birth, and date of death of patients buried in state hospital cemeteries fifty years after the death of a patient;
(m) To law enforcement officers and to prosecuting attorneys as are necessary to enforce *RCW 9.41.040(2)(a)(iii). The extent of information that may be released is limited as follows:
(i) Only the fact, place, and date of involuntary commitment, an official copy of any order or orders of commitment, and an official copy of any written or oral notice of ineligibility to possess a firearm that was provided to the person pursuant to RCW 9.41.047(1), must be disclosed upon request;
(ii) The law enforcement and prosecuting attorneys may only release the information obtained to the person's attorney as required by court rule and to a jury or judge, if a jury is waived, that presides over any trial at which the person is charged with violating *RCW 9.41.040(2)(a)(iii);
(iii) Disclosure under this subsection is mandatory for the purposes of the federal health insurance portability and accountability act;
(n) When a patient would otherwise be subject to the provisions of this section and disclosure is necessary for the protection of the patient or others due to his or her unauthorized disappearance from the facility, and his or her whereabouts is unknown, notice of the disappearance, along with relevant information, may be made to relatives, the department of corrections when the person is under the supervision of the department, and governmental law enforcement agencies designated by the physician or psychiatric advanced registered nurse practitioner in charge of the patient or the professional person in charge of the facility, or his or her professional designee;
(o) Pursuant to lawful order of a court;
(p) To qualified staff members of the department, to the authority, to the director of behavioral health organizations, to resource management services responsible for serving a patient, or to service providers designated by resource management services as necessary to determine the progress and adequacy of treatment and to determine whether the person should be transferred to a less restrictive or more appropriate treatment modality or facility;
(q) Within the mental health service agency where the patient is receiving treatment, confidential information may be disclosed to persons employed, serving in bona fide training programs, or participating in supervised volunteer programs, at the facility when it is necessary to perform their duties;
(r) Within the department and the authority as necessary to coordinate treatment for mental illness, developmental disabilities, alcoholism, or substance use disorder of persons who are under the supervision of the department;
(s) Between the department of social and health services, the department of children, youth, and families, and the health care authority as necessary to coordinate treatment for mental illness, developmental disabilities, alcoholism, or drug abuse of persons who are under the supervision of the department of social and health services or the department of children, youth, and families;
(t) To a licensed physician or psychiatric advanced registered nurse practitioner who has determined that the life or health of the person is in danger and that treatment without the information and records related to mental health services could be injurious to the patient's health. Disclosure must be limited to the portions of the records necessary to meet the medical emergency;
(u)(i) Consistent with the requirements of the federal health insurance portability and accountability act, to:
(A) A health care provider who is providing care to a patient, or to whom a patient has been referred for evaluation or treatment; or
(B) Any other person who is working in a care coordinator role for a health care facility or health care provider or is under an agreement pursuant to the federal health insurance portability and accountability act with a health care facility or a health care provider and requires the information and records to assure coordinated care and treatment of that patient.
(ii) A person authorized to use or disclose information and records related to mental health services under this subsection (2)(u) must take appropriate steps to protect the information and records relating to mental health services.
(iii) Psychotherapy notes may not be released without authorization of the patient who is the subject of the request for release of information;
(v) To administrative and office support staff designated to obtain medical records for those licensed professionals listed in (u) of this subsection;
(w) To a facility that is to receive a person who is involuntarily committed under chapter 71.05 RCW, or upon transfer of the person from one evaluation and treatment facility to another. The release of records under this subsection is limited to the information and records related to mental health services required by law, a record or summary of all somatic treatments, and a discharge summary. The discharge summary may include a statement of the patient's problem, the treatment goals, the type of treatment which has been provided, and recommendation for future treatment, but may not include the patient's complete treatment record;
(x) To the person's counsel or guardian ad litem, without modification, at any time in order to prepare for involuntary commitment or recommitment proceedings, reexaminations, appeals, or other actions relating to detention, admission, commitment, or patient's rights under chapter 71.05 RCW;
(y) To staff members of the protection and advocacy agency or to staff members of a private, nonprofit corporation for the purpose of protecting and advocating the rights of persons with mental disorders or developmental disabilities. Resource management services may limit the release of information to the name, birthdate, and county of residence of the patient, information regarding whether the patient was voluntarily admitted, or involuntarily committed, the date and place of admission, placement, or commitment, the name and address of a guardian of the patient, and the date and place of the guardian's appointment. Any staff member who wishes to obtain additional information must notify the patient's resource management services in writing of the request and of the resource management services' right to object. The staff member shall send the notice by mail to the guardian's address. If the guardian does not object in writing within fifteen days after the notice is mailed, the staff member may obtain the additional information. If the guardian objects in writing within fifteen days after the notice is mailed, the staff member may not obtain the additional information;
(z) To all current treating providers of the patient with prescriptive authority who have written a prescription for the patient within the last twelve months. For purposes of coordinating health care, the department or the authority may release without written authorization of the patient, information acquired for billing and collection purposes as described in RCW 70.02.050(1)(d). The department, or the authority, if applicable, shall notify the patient that billing and collection information has been released to named providers, and provide the substance of the information released and the dates of such release. Neither the department nor the authority may release counseling, inpatient psychiatric hospitalization, or drug and alcohol treatment information without a signed written release from the client;
(aa)(i) To the secretary of social and health services and the director of the health care authority for either program evaluation or research, or both so long as the secretary or director, where applicable, adopts rules for the conduct of the evaluation or research, or both. Such rules must include, but need not be limited to, the requirement that all evaluators and researchers sign an oath of confidentiality substantially as follows:
"As a condition of conducting evaluation or research concerning persons who have received services from (fill in the facility, agency, or person) I, . . . . . ., agree not to divulge, publish, or otherwise make known to unauthorized persons or the public any information obtained in the course of such evaluation or research regarding persons who have received services such that the person who received such services is identifiable.
I recognize that unauthorized release of confidential information may subject me to civil liability under the provisions of state law.
/s/ . . . . . ."
(ii) Nothing in this chapter may be construed to prohibit the compilation and publication of statistical data for use by government or researchers under standards, including standards to assure maintenance of confidentiality, set forth by the secretary, or director, where applicable;
(bb) To any person if the conditions in RCW 70.02.205 are met.
(3) Whenever federal law or federal regulations restrict the release of information contained in the information and records related to mental health services of any patient who receives treatment for chemical dependency, the department or the authority may restrict the release of the information as necessary to comply with federal law and regulations.
(4) Civil liability and immunity for the release of information about a particular person who is committed to the department of social and health services or the authority under RCW ** 71.05.280(3) and *** 71.05.320(4)(c) after dismissal of a sex offense as defined in RCW 9.94A.030, is governed by RCW 4.24.550.
(5) The fact of admission to a provider of mental health services, as well as all records, files, evidence, findings, or orders made, prepared, collected, or maintained pursuant to chapter 71.05 RCW are not admissible as evidence in any legal proceeding outside that chapter without the written authorization of the person who was the subject of the proceeding except as provided in RCW 70.02.260, in a subsequent criminal prosecution of a person committed pursuant to RCW ** 71.05.280(3) or *** 71.05.320(4)(c) on charges that were dismissed pursuant to chapter 10.77 RCW due to incompetency to stand trial, in a civil commitment proceeding pursuant to chapter 71.09 RCW, or, in the case of a minor, a guardianship or dependency proceeding. The records and files maintained in any court proceeding pursuant to chapter 71.05 RCW must be confidential and available subsequent to such proceedings only to the person who was the subject of the proceeding or his or her attorney. In addition, the court may order the subsequent release or use of such records or files only upon good cause shown if the court finds that appropriate safeguards for strict confidentiality are and will be maintained.
(6)(a) Except as provided in RCW 4.24.550, any person may bring an action against an individual who has willfully released confidential information or records concerning him or her in violation of the provisions of this section, for the greater of the following amounts:
(i) One thousand dollars; or
(ii) Three times the amount of actual damages sustained, if any.
(b) It is not a prerequisite to recovery under this subsection that the plaintiff suffered or was threatened with special, as contrasted with general, damages.
(c) Any person may bring an action to enjoin the release of confidential information or records concerning him or her or his or her ward, in violation of the provisions of this section, and may in the same action seek damages as provided in this subsection.
(d) The court may award to the plaintiff, should he or she prevail in any action authorized by this subsection, reasonable attorney fees in addition to those otherwise provided by law.
(e) If an action is brought under this subsection, no action may be brought under RCW 70.02.170.
[ 2018 c 201 § 8002; 2017 3rd sp.s. c 6 § 816. Prior: 2017 c 325 § 2; (2017 c 325 § 1 expired April 1, 2018); 2017 c 298 § 6; (2017 c 298 § 5 expired April 1, 2018); 2016 sp.s. c 29 § 417; prior: 2014 c 225 § 71; 2014 c 220 § 9; 2013 c 200 § 7.]

NOTES:

Reviser's note: *(1) RCW 9.41.040 was amended by 2018 c 234 § 1, changing subsection (2)(a)(iii) to subsection (2)(a)(iv).
**(2) RCW 71.05.280 was amended by 2013 c 289 § 4, substantially modifying the provisions of subsection (3).
***(3) RCW 71.05.320 was amended by 2013 c 289 § 5, substantially modifying the provisions of subsection (4)(c).
FindingsIntentEffective date2018 c 201: See notes following RCW 41.05.018.
Effective date2017 3rd sp.s. c 6 §§ 102, 104-115, 201-227, 301-337, 401-419, 501-513, 801-803, and 805-822: See note following RCW 43.216.025.
Conflict with federal requirements2017 3rd sp.s. c 6: See RCW 43.216.908.
Expiration date2017 c 325 § 1: "Section 1 of this act expires April 1, 2018." [ 2017 c 325 § 3.]
Effective date2017 c 325 § 2: "Section 2 of this act takes effect April 1, 2018." [ 2017 c 325 § 4.]
Expiration date2017 c 298 § 5: "Section 5 of this act expires April 1, 2018." [ 2017 c 298 § 8.]
Effective date2017 c 298 § 6: "Section 6 of this act takes effect April 1, 2018." [ 2017 c 298 § 7.]
Effective dates2016 sp.s. c 29: See note following RCW 71.05.760.
Short titleRight of action2016 sp.s. c 29: See notes following RCW 71.05.010.
Effective date2014 c 225: See note following RCW 71.24.016.
Effective date2014 c 220: See note following RCW 70.02.290.
Effective date2013 c 200: See note following RCW 70.02.010.
Site Contents
Selected content listed in alphabetical order under each group