A proposal in Albany to help improve outcomes for people being treated for drug addiction makes good sense, and we see no reason it shouldn't become law.
The state Senate this week passed a measure that would require treatment providers to contact people on a predesignated list when a person undergoing treatment shows signs of relapsing into drug use. The idea is simple: to help prevent overdose deaths.
Federal law demands the confidentiality of medical records — and that's an important thing to protect — but what this legislation would do is allow the sharing of information with people that a patient has already given the OK to contact. With a patient's prior consent, treatment providers would be free to call family and friends to share their concerns about a patient.
Successful treatment for addiction is a long process, and many people fail to kick the habit on their first try. Experts say that failed drug screenings and missed counseling appointments are among the most prominent signs that a person is relapsing, so it's important to help them get back on track as soon as possible. Trusted family members and friends can help make that happen.
The details of the legislation will have to be carefully written so that this proposal doesn't come with any unintended negative consequences. The state needs to make sure that the rules are crystal clear that patients won't be obligated to participate in the call list program. Care needs to be taken to not discourage people from seeking help out of a fear that their right to privacy might be violated.
A support network can help achieve positive outcomes, and we believe that addiction treatment providers should be encouraging people to involve their family and friends as they undergo treatment. The addition of a predesignated contact list to the drug treatment process has the potential to be a lifesaver.
The Citizen editorial board includes interim publisher Thomas Salvo, executive editor Jeremy Boyer and managing editor Mike Dowd.