Denied Access to Mental Health Records

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I found out recently that my Social Security Disability (SSDI) hearing has been set for February 2019. When I found this out, I contacted my attorney’s office to ask for a copy of my medical records since I honestly don’t even know what all is in them other than what my doctors have told me and what little is available on the online portals. I was rather shocked when they told me that they could give me the physical health records, but it is a HIPAA violation to allow me to see my complete mental health records.

To be honest, this bothered me. I’m not allowed to see some of my own mental health records? This doesn’t seem right to me. Maybe I could understand if I were violent or a real danger to others and they feared me getting pissed at what the doctors wrote and trying to harm them or something, but the closest I’ve ever come to violence is just having a meltdown and yelling at someone because I was overwhelmed (normally this has only happened at work places when I was put under a lot of pressure). Even yelling is pretty rare for me though. I am much more likely to just burst into tears, lock myself in the bathroom, or try to get away from the situation by finding another “safe” area where I can be alone.

Am I alone in being frustrated by the seemingly patronizing system hiding my own truth from me? Who else deserves to know my doctors’ real, honest perception of me more than myself? I’m not a child. I can handle knowing what my doctors really think of me and maybe knowing those things would help me in my own personal growth.

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34 thoughts on “Denied Access to Mental Health Records

      1. If they haven’t communicated to you the reasons in writing, can you write to them and tell them to reply in writing/letter, their reasons for denying you access to your medical records, including the specific law and section number that gives them the power to do so? If I were you, this is what I’d do. It might be the case that it is indeed the law, but I’d still like a formal written record from the attorney to evidence that, in other words, to leave no room for doubt, have things stated in black and white.

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  1. I’m not familiar with U.S. law, but I’m guessing it’s not too different from some of the laws in Canada. Where I am, if a healthcare provider has released medical records to a 3rd party (like a lawyer), that 3rd party is not authorized to further distribute those records. If you wanted the records, you would have to get them from the healthcare provider directly, and they are expected to keep track of everyone those records have been released to. When I was working in community mental health my clients would occasionally request their records. The health records department would then ask me to review the chart and see if there was any 3rd party information that couldn’t be released. As an example, say a client’s neighbour had expressed concerns that the client posed a risk to others, but they didn’t want the client to know they had reported these concerns. If the client later requested a copy of their chart, that section would have to be severed.

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      1. Good for you. Once I had to front a hospital board, to apply for my wife to be returned back into my care. They had made a decision that she was too disabled to return home, and that I wasn’t capable of looking after her,… She had already been in my care for 27 years !! I won the appeal, and Carole spent another 3 lovely comfortable years at home 🏡 xx

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  2. I think doctors want to be able to theorize about many different kinds of diagnoses, so if patients have access to the records, they might have to be more careful about what they say in them. I think it used to be difficult to get any medical records at all, because doctors don’t want to have to explain why they made the diagnosis to some “uninformed” patient. I’ve seen that attitude change in the past 40 years of dealing with medical and mental health problems, but there’s obviously still a lot to be done to help make medical care a partnership instead of a process that keeps the patient in the dark. Good luck!

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    1. Thanks for the info. I’ll definitely have to look into it further. Maybe it really is partly that 3rd party thing someone else mentioned, although I don’t understand why that would only apply to mental health records.

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  3. That does seem a little odd. There must be some reason why they have distinguished between physical and mental health. I suspect it’s to protect the Dr’s. They can be blunt and to the point in their notes. If everyone had dr notes available on request and the person reading them had severe mental health needs then I suppose it could do a lot of harm to read what the Dr thinks of them. Just a guess though!

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