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Improving health outcomes

House Bill 1561, sponsored by Farry, would amend the Mental Health Procedures Act to allow for providers, facilities and health plans to share patient information with the patient’s approval

The state House Human Services Committee passed legislation to increase transparency among health care providers and patients, allowing for more successful treatment, according to Rep. Frank Farry, chairman of the House Human Services Committee.

“In order for providers to effectively care for a patient, health records must be more easily accessible. The bills the committee passed remove barriers that I believe could hurt patients more than help them,” Farry said.

Under current law, mental health and substance use disorder information cannot be fully shared among providers in the state. House Bill 1561, sponsored by Farry, and House Bill 1563 would amend the Mental Health Procedures Act and the Pennsylvania Drug and Alcohol Abuse Control Act, respectively, to allow for providers, facilities and health plans to share patient information with the patient’s approval. Both bills would also align with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) standards to ensure patient confidentiality.

Another measure would establish local overdose fatality review teams to help develop data aimed to prevent future overdose deaths. An amendment offered by Farry adds the inclusion of those individuals who die by suicide to be investigated by a local team.

“The Suicide and Overdose Fatality Review Act would strengthen our community’s ability to improve efforts related to prevention and provide recommendations to reduce these tragic deaths,” Farry said.

Farry’s committee advanced House Bill 1995, which would require the Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs to go through the appropriate regulatory process when implementing new programmatic changes, including staff ratios and credentialing requirements in excess of federal mandates. This would allow for the proper level of training as well as stakeholder and public participation.

House Bills 1561, 1563, 1995 and 1308 now await consideration by the full House of Representatives.

“The committee has worked in a bipartisan manner to help those with mental or physical ailments receive treatment unencumbered by unnecessary and potentially damaging bureaucratic rules,” Farry said. “I urge the whole House to join my committee in passing these important reforms.”

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