Counseling Services Privacy Policy

Fitchburg State University understands that information about you is personal. The following is the Privacy Policy of the University’s Counseling Services Office.

Certain laws and professional ethical standards require the Counseling Services Office to maintain the privacy and confidentiality of your personal information, but there are circumstances under which the Office may lawfully share your information without your consent. This Policy will tell you about the ways in which the Office may use and disclose personal information about you.

Your Personal Information

The Counseling Services Office creates a record of the care and services you receive. This Policy applies to all of the records of your care generated by the Office, whether made by Counseling Services personnel or other health care professionals involved in your treatment. Other professionals may have a different policy regarding the use and disclosure of the personal information that is created in their offices.

In general, when the Counseling Services Office releases your personal information, it will release only the information needed to achieve the purpose of the disclosure. All of your personal information, however, may be available for release to you or to another health care provider regarding your treatment, or pursuant to legal requirements.

How the Counseling Services Office May Use or Disclose Your Personal Information

Under most circumstances, the Counseling Services Office may not use or disclose your personal information without your consent. Further, once your consent has been obtained, the Counseling Services Office must use or disclose your personal information in accordance with the specific terms of that consent. The following are the circumstances under which the Counseling Services Office is permitted by law to use or disclose your personal information.

I. Uses and Disclosures Without Your Consent

  • Treatment:
    A healthcare provider may use the information in your personal record to determine which treatment option, such as a drug or surgery, best addresses your health needs. The treatment selected will be documented in your personal record, so that other health care professionals can make informed decisions about your care.
  • Payment:
    In order for an insurance company to pay for your treatment, the Counseling Services Office must submit a bill that identifies you, your diagnosis, and the treatment provided to you.
  • Counseling Services Office Care Operations:
    The Counseling Services Office may need your diagnosis, treatment, and outcome information in order to improve the quality or cost of care the Counseling Services Office delivers.
  • Health-Related Benefits and Services or Treatment Alternatives:
    The Counseling Services Office may use and disclose personal information to tell you about health-related benefits and services that might interest you or to recommend other treatment options.
  • To Those Involved With Your Care or Payment of Your Care:
    If people such as family members, relatives, or close personal friends are helping care for you or pay your medical bills, the Counseling Services Office may release to them personal information about you, include your location within our facility, your general condition, or your death.
  • To Disaster Relief Organizations:
    The Counseling Services Office may release your personal information to organizations authorized to handle disaster relief efforts so those who care for you can receive information about your location or health status.
  • For Public Health Activities:
    The Counseling Services Office may be required to report your personal information to authorities to help prevent or control disease, injury, or disability. This may include using your personal record to report certain diseases, injuries, birth or death information, information of concern to the Food and Drug Administration, or information related to child abuse or neglect.
  • For Health Oversight Activities:
    The Counseling Services Office may disclose your personal information to authorities so they can monitor, investigate, inspect, discipline or license those who work in the health care system or for government benefit programs.
  • For Activities Related to Death:
    The Counseling Services Office may disclose your personal information to coroners, medical examiners and funeral directors so they can carry out their duties related to your death.
  • For Organ, Eye or Tissue Donation:
    The Counseling Services Office may disclose your personal information to people involved with obtaining, storing or transplanting organs, eyes or tissue of cadavers for donation purposes.
  • For Military, National Security, or Incarceration/Law Enforcement Custody:
    If you are involved with the military, national security or intelligence activities, or you are in the custody of law enforcement officials or an inmate in a correctional institution, the Counseling Services Office may release your personal information to the proper authorities.
  • For Workers' Compensation:
    The Counseling Services Office may disclose your personal information to the appropriate persons in order to comply with the laws related to workers’ compensation.
  • As Required by Law:
    The Counseling Services Office must report some of your personal information to state or federal legal authorities, such as law enforcement officials, court officials, or government agencies. For example, it may have to report abuse, neglect, domestic violence or certain physical injuries, or to respond to a court order.
  • Lawsuits and Disputes:
    If you are involved in a lawsuit or a dispute, the Counseling Services Office may disclose your personal information in response to a court or administrative order, subpoena or discovery request, but only if it has first given you notice of the order, subpoena or discovery request and an opportunity to quash it.
  • To Avoid a Serious Threat to Health or Safety:
    As required by law and by the standards of ethical conduct, the Counseling Services Office may release your personal information to the proper authorities if it believes, in good faith, that such release is necessary to prevent or minimize a serious and approaching threat to your or the public’s health or safety.
  • As Otherwise Permitted by Law.

II. Other Uses and Disclosures

Uses and disclosures for purposes other than described above typically require your consent. For example, the Counseling Services Office must obtain your consent before disclosing your personal information to a life insurer or to an employer, except under those special circumstances when a disclosure is required by law. You have the right to revoke your consent in writing at any time, except to the extent that the Counseling Services Office has already relied on it in making an authorized disclosure.

III. Specific Provisions Regarding Psychological/Counseling Records

The confidentiality of counseling relationships is maintained in a manner consistent with accepted professional standards and with state and federal law. Under normal circumstances, no persons outside of the Counseling Services Office, including your parents and other College officials, are given any information (even the fact that you have been to the Counseling Services Office) without your prior written consent, except where it is permitted or required by law to disclose the information as follows:

  • If the Counseling Services Office believes that YOU MAY BE AT RISK OF HARMING OR KILLING YOURSELF, it is required to take action to try to ensure your safety. Under such circumstances, it may be necessary for the Counseling Services Office to seek hospitalization for you and/or contact family members or other individuals who might also help provide protection.
  • If the Counseling Services Office believes that YOU MAY BE AT RISK OF HARMING OR KILLING ANOTHER PERSON OR PERSONS, it is required to take action. In such instances, it may be necessary to warn the potential victim, to notify the campus and local police, and/or to seek hospitalization for you.
  • If there is SUSPECTED EMOTIONAL, PHYSICAL, AND/OR SEXUAL ABUSE OR NEGLECT OF A MINOR, the Counseling Services Office is required by law to inform the State Department of Children and Families.
  • In cases of SUSPECTED EMOTIONAL OR PHYSICAL INJURY TO OR NEGLECT OF A DISABLED PERSON (including nonconsensual sexual activity), the Counseling Services Office is required by law to inform the Disabled Persons Protection Commission and any other appropriate agencies.
  • In instances of SUSPECTED EMOTIONAL OR PHYSICAL INJURY TO OR NEGLECT OF AN ELDERLY PERSON (including financial exploitation), the Counseling Services Office is required by law to inform the Massachusetts Executive Office of Elder Affairs.
  • If YOU FILE A COMPLAINT OR LAWSUIT AGAINST THE COUNSELING SERVICES OFFICE OR ONE ITS COUNSELORS OR STAFF, the Counseling Services Office may disclose relevant information regarding you in order to defend itself and its personnel.
  • In the event of a COURT ORDER OR OTHER MANDATORY LEGAL PROCESS, the Counseling Services Office may be required to release records to the court.

If you have any questions about confidentiality, please talk with your counselor or contact the Counseling Services Office during office hours.

Your Rights to Your Personal Information

You have the following rights with regard to your personal information. If you wish to exercise any of these rights, please contact the Director of Counseling Services, or the Dean of Student and Academic Life, as appropriate.

I. Inspect and Copy Your Personal Information

With a few exceptions, you have the right to inspect and obtain a copy of your personal information. Usually, this includes medical and billing records, but does not include psychotherapy notes or information gathered for judicial proceedings. The Counseling Services Office may charge you a reasonable fee if you want a copy of your personal information.

II. Request to Amend Your Records

If you believe your personal information is incorrect, you may ask the Counseling Services Office to correct the information for as long as it is kept by the Counseling Services Office. To request an amendment, you must make your request in writing to the Director of Counseling Services, and you must give a reason as to why your personal information should be changed. The Counseling Services Office may deny your request for an amendment if: it is not in writing; it does not include a reason to support the request; the Counseling Services Office disagrees with you and believes your personal information is correct; the information is not part of the information which you would be permitted to inspect or copy (i.e., psychotherapy notes); the Counseling Services Office did not create the personal information that you believe is incorrect; or, if the information is not kept by or for the Counseling Services Office.

III. As Applicable, Receive Confidential Communication of Personal Information

You may ask that the Counseling Services Office communicate your personal information to you in different ways or places. For example, you may wish to receive information about your health status in a special, private room or through a written letter sent to a private address. The Counseling Services Office will accommodate reasonable requests of this nature.

Changes to This Policy

The Counseling Services Office reserves the right to change the privacy practices described in this Policy, in accordance with the law. If changes to this Policy are made, a revised Policy will be posted at all Counseling Services delivery sites on campus and will be made available to you at your request. The revised Policy will also be posted on the College’s website.

Questions

If you have questions or concerns regarding the privacy of your personal records or the information in this Policy, please contact the Director of Counseling Services for further information.