OCR Launches Public Education Campaign About Civil Rights Protections in Response To the National Opioid Crisis

OCR Launches Public Education Campaign About Civil Rights Protections in Response To the National Opioid Crisis

October 25, 2018

Today the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) launched a public education campaign on civil rights protections in light of the president’s opioid bill signing yesterday and HHS’s ongoing efforts to combat the opioid epidemic. The campaign aims to improve access to evidence-based opioid use disorder treatment and recovery services, such as Medication Assisted Treatment, by ensuring that covered entities are aware of their obligations under federal nondiscrimination laws, including laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of disability or limited English proficiency. In addition, the campaign seeks to educate the public about disability rights protections that may apply to persons in recovery from an opioid addiction.

Well over 100 people in the United States die from an opioid related drug overdose every day. In October 2017, President Trump and HHS declared the opioid crisis a “Public Health Emergency” and many HHS agencies have taken important steps to address drug addiction and opioid misuse. In response to this emergency, OCR is issuing materials to help educate the public about civil rights protections regarding evidence-based opioid use disorder treatment and recovery services. The campaign complements OCR’s 2017 guidance – How HIPAA Allows Doctors to Respond to the Opioid Crisis - PDF informing doctors on how they can share information to help patients suffering from an opioid crisis.

Opioid misuse and addiction is a serious epidemic with devastating consequences that affect not only individuals and their families, but also the nation’s public health and economic welfare. “Persons getting help for an opioid use disorder are protected by our civil rights laws throughout their treatment and recovery,” said Roger Severino, OCR Director. “Discrimination, bias, and stereotypical beliefs about persons recovering from an opioid addiction can lead to unnecessary and unlawful barriers to health and social services that are key to addressing the opioid crisis.”

To learn more about OCR’s commitment to fighting against opioid misuse and addiction and how federal civil rights laws protect qualified individuals with an opioid use disorder, please visit www.hhs.gov/ocr/opioids. The website also highlights OCR’s important work on ensuring that HIPAA supports accessing and sharing important health information about individuals who are in crisis due to opioid addiction. ###