In response to President Donald Trump’s call to action on the opioid crisis, Health and Human Services (HHS) Acting Secretary Eric D. Hargan held a meeting on Dec. 12, 2017, with healthcare leaders to address the growing opioid epidemic. (For more information on the meeting, visit: http://bit.ly/2zHsbK4.)

HHS laid out the following five-point strategy to combat the opioid crisis:

• better prevention, treatment, and recovery services;

• better targeting of overdose-reversing drugs;

• better data on the epidemic;

• better research on pain and addiction;

• better pain management.

Also, the HHS Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has produced new tools and initiatives in response to the opioid crisis.

“HHS is using every tool at its disposal to help communities devastated by opioids, including educating families and doctors on how they can share information to help save the lives of loved ones,” OCR Director Roger Severino said in a news release. (For more information, visit: http://bit.ly/2Dq8Q2e.)

The latest actions, implemented on Dec. 18, 2017, include the following:

• Two new HIPAA webpages — one for consumers and one for professionals — focus on mental and behavioral health information. The webpages use existing guidance, making it more user-friendly and providing a one-stop resource for new guidance and materials.

• There is new HIPAA guidance on sharing information related to mental health and substance use disorder treatment with patients’ family, friends, and others. The new information contains fact sheets, an infographic, decision charts, and materials tailored to the parents of children who suffer from a mental health condition.

• Partner agencies within HHS are collaborating to identify and develop model programs and materials for training healthcare providers, patients, and their families regarding permitted uses and disclosures of the protected health information of patients seeking or undergoing mental health or substance use disorder treatment.

• There is updated guidance on HIPAA and research per the 21st Century Cures Act. (More information can be found at: http://bit.ly/2pPW9M3.)

• HHS has launched a working group to study and report on the uses and disclosures under HIPAA of protected health information for research purposes.