The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS or "the Department'') is issuing this final rule to modify the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) Privacy Rule to expressly permit certain HIPAA covered entities to disclose to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) the identities of individuals who are subject to a Federal "mental health prohibitor'' that disqualifies them from shipping, transporting, possessing, or receiving a firearm.
The NICS is a national system maintained by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to conduct background checks on persons who may be disqualified from receiving firearms based on Federally prohibited categories or State law. Among the persons subject to the Federal mental health prohibitor established under the Gun Control Act of 1968 and implementing regulations issued by the Department of Justice (DOJ) are individuals who have been involuntarily committed to a mental institution; found incompetent to stand trial or not guilty by reason of insanity; or otherwise have been determined by a court, board, commission, or other lawful authority to be a danger to themselves or others or to lack the mental capacity to contract or manage their own affairs, as a result of marked subnormal intelligence or mental illness, incompetency, condition, or disease.
Under this final rule, only covered entities with lawful authority to make the adjudications or commitment decisions that make individuals subject to the Federal mental health prohibitor, or that serve as repositories of information for NICS reporting purposes, are permitted to disclose the information needed for these purposes. The disclosure is restricted to limited demographic and certain other information needed for NICS purposes.
The rule specifically prohibits the disclosure of diagnostic or clinical information, from medical records or other sources, and any mental health information beyond the indication that the individual is subject to the Federal mental health prohibitor.
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