Yup, it’s frustrating. And confusing.
Let’s simplify as best we can down to 3 central tenets.
A. Adult guardians have the right to privacy
B. Adulthood in Texas starts at 18
C. There is a process to override privacy/confidentiality rules but it’s complicated.
As mental health providers, we are trusted with thoughts and sensitive personal information that we use to help our patients feel better. To that end, privacy and confidentiality laws are pretty strong when it comes to sharing mental health information.
A. An adult guardian is any person who is above 18 and has the capacity to make their own medical decisions. This right includes keeping thoughts and feelings private, even from family members and healthcare providers. There are three instances where healthcare providers can release information about an adult guardian:
1. There is expressed written permission (e.g. Release of Information form)
2. Court Order/subpoena
3. The adult guardian is a danger to themselves or others and information is needed to ensure their safety
B. Different states have different definitions of when adulthood starts. In Texas, it’s when people turn 18, regardless of if they’re still in high school or not. This can be a tough transition for some parents as oftentimes, 18 year olds are still living home and completing the last year of school. It’s a shock to the family system to go from parental guidance to self guidance literally overnight; we’re here to ease that transition for our patients. While 18 year olds have the exclusive right to privacy, we highly encourage them to share their medical decisions with their support system
C. Healthcare providers and families can “override” the privacy and confidentiality system if there’s a question of safety. Safety concerns include thoughts of hurting oneself or others or suffering symptoms that could endanger self or others (e.g. psychosis, severe acute intoxications, etc.)
Healthcare providers generally start this process in the office, hospital, emergency room, or urgent treatment center. For concerned families, we recommend that they start the process by getting their family member to a healthcare provider as soon as possible.
This FAQ is not exhaustive and does not substitute for consultation with your personal healthcare or legal professional. We welcome your questions on an individual basis as part of building a complete treatment plan with Progressive Psychiatry, P.A.