Privacy Policy

First Step Services, LLC believes it is important for you to understand how medical information about you may be disclosed and how you can get access to this information. Please make sure you review this carefully.

Your Rights

  • You can ask to see or obtain an electronic or paper copy of your medical record and other health information we have about you by submitting a written request to our office. We will provide a copy of a summary of your health information within 30 days of your request.  A small fee is required to cover the cost of searching, handling, copying, and mailing medical records.
  • You can ask us to correct health information about you that you think is incorrect or incomplete by submitting a written request that indicates the reason you believe the information is incorrect or incomplete and what you believe should be indicated. First Step Services may say “No” to your request and a written explanation will be provided within 60 days of the request.
  • You can ask us to contact you in a specific way (for example, home or office phone) or to send mail to a different address. First Step Services will say “Yes” to all reasonable requests.
  • You can ask us NOT to use or share certain health information for treatment, payment, or our operations. First Step Services is not required to agree to your request and may say “No” if it would affect your care.
  • If you pay for a health care item out-of-pocket in full, you can ask us not to share that information for the purpose of payment or our operations with your insurer. We will say “Yes” unless the law requires us to share that information. You will be asked to sign the insurance agreement indicating that you wish to OPT out of using insurance with the understanding that you cannot ask for the services to be billed to insurance later. Hardship rates do not apply.
  • You can ask for a paper copy of this notice at any time, even if you have agreed to receive the notice electronically. We will provide you with a paper copy promptly. A copy should have been offered at your initial intake and can be found on our website at www.firststepnc.com.
  • If you have given someone medical power of attorney or if someone is your legal guardian, that person can exercise your rights and make choices about your health information. First Step Services will make sure the person has this authority and can act for you before we take any action.
  • You can complain if you feel we have violated your rights by contacting the Program Director(s) and/or Clinical Director of First Step Services if your counselor cannot resolve the issue. Our phone number is 919-833-8899. A complaint may also be filed with the Wake County Department of Human Services at 919-790-3224. You can also file a complaint with the US Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights by sending a letter to 200 Independence Avenue, S.W., Washington D.C. 20201, or by calling 1-877-696-6775, or by visiting www.hhs.gov/ocr/privacy/hipaa/complaints/. We will not retaliate against you for filing a complaint. A full description of the grievance policy can be found in the Participant Handbook.

For certain information, you can tell us your choices about what we share. If you have a clear preference for how we share your information in the situations described below, please discuss it with us, indicating what you want us to do, and we will follow your instructions. If you are not able to tell us your preference, for example, if you are unconscious, we may go ahead and share your information if we believe it is in your best interest. We may also share your information when needed to lessen a serious and imminent threat to health or safety.

Your Choices

  • It is important for you to understand how we may use or share your health information
  • In these cases, you have both a right and a choice to tell us to:
    • Share information with your family, close friends, or others involved in your care
    • Share information in a disaster relief situation
  • In these cases, we never share your information unless you give us written permission:
    • Marketing purposes
    • Most sharing of psychotherapy notes to 3rd parties.
  • In the case of fundraising:
    • First Step Services does not solicit fundraising from previous or current clients and will not contact you for fundraising purposes. 

First Step Services must meet many conditions in the law before we can share your information for these purposes. For more information please visit:
www.hhs.gov/ocr/privacy/hipaa/understanding/consumers/index.html

First Step Services uses your health information in the following ways:

Our Uses and Disclosures

  • First Step Services can use your health information and share it with other professionals who are treating you. For example, your assigned clinician may ask your psychiatrist about your overall condition.
  • First Step Services can use or share your health information to run our practice, improve your care, and contact you when necessary. For example, your health information helps us manage and determine which services are medically necessary.
  • First Step Services can use and share your health information to bill and get payment from health plans or other entities. For example, we give information about you to your health insurance plan so it will pay for your services.
  • First Step Services may share health information about you for certain situations such as:
    • Preventing disease
    • Helping with product recalls
    • Reporting suspected abuse, neglect, or domestic violence
    • Preventing or reducing a serious threat to anyone’s health or safety
  • First Step Services can use or share your information for health research
  • First Step Services will share information about you if state or federal laws require it, including with the Department of Health and Human Services if it wants to see that we’re complying with federal privacy law
  • First Step Services can share health information about you with organ procurement organizations.
  • First Step Services can share health information with a coroner, medical examiner, funeral director or the NC Department of Health and Human Services when an individual dies
  • First Step Services can use or share health information about you:
    • For workers’ compensation claims
    • For law enforcement purposes or with a law enforcement official
    • With health oversight agencies for activities authorized by law
    • For special government functions such as military, national security, and presidential protective services
    • First Step Services can share health information about you in response to a court or administrative order, or in response to a subpoena

Your health care information is protected by two federal laws: Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA), 42 C.F.R., Parts 160 & 164, and Confidentiality Law, 42 U.S.C. 290dd-2, C.F.R. Part 2. First Step Services will not disclose any health information related to substance use and mental health treatment without obtaining your specific written authorization allowing us to make the disclosure. You will be asked to sign a “Release of Information” (ROI) several times during your treatment at First Step Services. You may refuse to sign an ROI that is requested. You may also revoke the ROI at any time and must be provided in writing. Once received, no further disclosures will be made for the ROI that was revoked.

First Step Services has several responsibilities as your treatment provider, and it is important that you understand what our responsibilities are.

Our Responsibilities

  • First Step Services is required by law to maintain the privacy and security of your protected health information
  • First Step Services will let you know promptly if a breach occurs that may have compromised the privacy or security of your information
  • First Step Services must follow the duties and privacy practices described in this notice and give you a copy of it
  • We will not use or share your information other than as described here unless you tell us we can in writing. If you tell us we can, you may change your mind at any time. Let us know in writing if you change your mind.
  • For more information see www.hhs.gov/ocr/privacy/hipaa/understanding/consumers/noticepp.html

First Step Services can change the terms of this notice, and changes will apply to all the information we have about you. The new notice will be available upon request, in our office, and on our website. Please direct all inquiries to the Program Director(s) and/or Clinical Director. 

Information about all FirstStepNC.com’s visitors

In general, our service automatically gathers certain usage information like the numbers and frequency of visitors to FirstStepNC.com and its areas, very much like television ratings that tell the networks how many people tuned in to a program. We only use such data in the aggregate. This collective data helps us determine how much our customers use parts of the site, so we can improve our site to assure that it is as appealing as we can make it for as many of you as possible. For example, FirstStepNC.com may use a technology nicknamed “cookies” that tells us how and when pages in our site are visited, and by how many people. First Step Services’ cookies do not collect personally identifiable information and we do not combine information collected through cookies with other personally identifiable information to tell us who you are or even what your screen name or e-mail address is. We also may provide statistical “ratings” information, never information about you personally, to our FirstStepNC.com partners about how our “members”, collectively, use FirstStepNC.com. We do this so they too can understand how much people use their areas and our site in order for them to provide you with the best possible Web experience as well.

Disclosure

We do not use or disclose information about your individual visits to FirstStepNC.com or information that you may give us, such as your name, address, email address or telephone number, to any outside companies. But as we mentioned above, we may share with our Web site partners aggregated statistical “ratings” information about the use of FirstStepNC.com.

First Step Services privacy policy changes

If we decide to change our privacy policy for FirstStepNC.com, we will post those changes here so that you will always know what information we gather, how we might use that information and whether we will disclose it to anyone.

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