Privacy Notice

The following information gives a detailed description of our privacy policies. 


Notice of the Mental Health Center's Policies and Practices to Protect the Privacy of Your Health Information

THIS NOTICE DESCRIBES HOW PSYCHOLOGICAL AND MEDICAL INFORMATION ABOUT YOU MAY BE USED AND DISCLOSED AND HOW YOU CAN GET ACCESS TO THIS INFORMATION. PLEASE REVIEW IT CAREFULLY.

I. Disclosures for Treatment, Payment, and Health Care Operations

The MHC may disclose your protected health information (PHI), for treatment, payment, and health care operations purposes with your written authorization. To help clarify these terms, here are some definitions:

  • PHI refers to information in your file that could identify you (any information with your name or other description of you.)
  • Treatment, Payment and Health Care Operations 
- Treatment is when the MHC provides, coordinates or manages your health care. An example of treatment would be when someone from the MHC consults with another health care provider, such as your family physician or another clinician.

-Payment is when the MHC obtains reimbursement for your healthcare. Examples of payment are when the MHC shares your PHI with your health insurer to obtain payment for your health care or to determine eligibility or coverage.

-Health Care Operations are activities that relate to the performance and operation of the MHC. Examples of health care operations are quality assessment and improvement activities or business-related matters such as audits and administrative services.
  • Disclosure applies to activities outside of the MHC, such as releasing, or providing access to information about you to people outside of the MHC.
  • Authorization is your written permission to disclose confidential mental health information. All authorizations to disclose must be on a specific MHC release form.

II. Other Uses and Disclosures Requiring Authorization

The MHC may disclose PHI for purposes other than treatment, payment, or health care operations when your appropriate authorization is obtained. In those instances when we are asked for information for purposes other than treatment, payment, or health care operations, we will obtain an authorization from you before releasing this information. We will also need to obtain an authorization before releasing your Psychotherapy Notes. Psychotherapy Notes are notes your clinician may have made about your conversation during a private, group, joint, or family counseling session, which he or she has kept separate from the rest of your record. These notes are given a greater degree of protection than PHI.

You may cancel all such authorizations (of PHI or Psychotherapy Notes) at any time, provided each request to cancel authorization is in writing. You may not cancel an authorization to the extent that (1) The MHC has relied on that authorization; or (2) if the authorization was obtained as a condition of obtaining insurance coverage, the law provides the insurer the right to contest the claim under the policy.

III. Uses and Disclosures without Authorization

The MHC may disclose PHI without your consent or authorization in the following circumstances:

  • Serious Threat to Health or Safety - If your clinician believes disclosure of PHI is necessary to protect you or another individual from a risk of imminent and serious physical injury, he or she may disclose the PHI to the appropriate individuals.
  • Child Abuse - If your clinician knows or has reasonable cause to suspect that a child known to him or her in a professional capacity has been or is in immediate danger of being a mentally or physically abused or neglected child, he or she must immediately report such knowledge or suspicion to the appropriate authority.
  • Dependent Adult Abuse - If your clinician believes that an elderly or disabled adult is in need of protective services because of abuse or neglect by another person, he or she must immediately report this belief to the appropriate authorities.
  • Court Proceedings - If you are involved in a court proceeding and a request is made for information about the professional services the MHC provided you, such information is privileged under D.C. law, and we will not release information without the written authorization of you or your legally appointed representative or a court order. The privilege does not apply when you are being evaluated for a third party or where the evaluation is court ordered. You will be informed in advance if this is the case.

IV. Client's Rights and Clinician's Duties

Client's Rights:

  • Right to Request Restrictions - You have the right to request restrictions on certain uses and disclosures of protected health information (PHI). However, your clinician is not required to agree to a restriction you request.
  • Right to Receive Confidential Communications by Alternative Means and at Alternative Locations - You have the right to request and receive confidential communications of PHI by alternative means and at alternative locations. (For example, you may not want a family member to know that you are seeing me. On your request, the MHC will send your bills to another address.)
  • Right to Inspect and Copy - You have the right to inspect or obtain a copy (or both) of PHI in our mental health and billing records used to make decisions about you for as long as the PHI is maintained in the record. Your clinician may deny your access to PHI under certain circumstances, but in some cases you may have this decision reviewed. You may be denied access to Psychotherapy Notes if your clinician believes that a limitation of access is necessary to protect you from a substantial risk of imminent psychological impairment or to protect you or another individual from a substantial risk of imminent and serious physical injury. Your clinician will notify you or your representative if he or she does not grant complete access. On your request, your clinician will discuss with you the details of the request and denial process.
  • Right to Amend - You have the right to request an amendment of PHI for as long as the PHI is maintained in the record. Your clinician may deny your request. On your request, he or she will discuss with you the details of the amendment process.
  • Right to a Listing - You generally have the right to receive a listing of disclosures of PHI. On your request, your clinician will discuss with you the details of this process.

Clinician's Duties:

  • The MHC is required by law to maintain the privacy of PHI and to provide you with a notice of our legal duties and privacy practices with respect to PHI.
  • The MHC reserves the right to change the privacy policies and practices described in this notice. Unless we notify you of such changes, however, we are required to abide by the terms currently in effect.

V. Complaints

If you are concerned that someone at the MHC has violated your privacy rights, or you disagree with a decision made about access to your records, you may contact Dr. Lauri Rush, Director of the Mental Health Center, at 202-651-6080 (v/tty).

You may also send a written complaint to the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The person listed above can provide you with the appropriate address upon request.

VI. Effective Date, Restrictions and Changes to Privacy Policy

This notice will go into effect on April 15, 2003.

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