In response to the Outliers item about the request for names of former patients buried on the grounds of the Hastings Regional Center (June 11, p. 36): I can see how, at first glance, those requests make sense. However, releasing names would require the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services to ignore state and federal law.
Nebraska state law says that release of patient records of the state institutions run by HHS require either the patients consent, an exception listed in the law or a court order. The statutes dont include any limits on time after discharge or death that would authorize release. New federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act rules and federal rules on release of drug or alcohol treatment information dont contain any time limits either. One also prohibits the release of information for patients treated for alcohol and drug dependence. These federal rules apply to any release of patient medical records even if there were no applicable state law.
The Nebraska attorney generals office recently confirmed that medical records of former regional center patients, including their names, remain confidential after their death.
Its encouraging to know that so many people are interested in people with mental illness and their families. I applaud their efforts to reduce stigma.
Scot AdamsDirector Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services Lincoln