Families tend to have the most comprehensive information about the treatment of their loved ones. Only by receiving this information can doctors give the best possible care. For example, a doctor needs to know if a medication they are suggesting has been used in the past and whether it worked or not and what the side-effects, if any, were. Sometimes the individual with mental illness can't or won't communicate that and the records are incomplete.
In addition, people with mental illness are often released from facilities to go back to live with their parents, yet information on diagnosis and treatment is withheld from the parents. As Rael Jean Isaac famously said in "Madness in the Streets": the family has become the institution, but they are an institution without training, without financing, and without the ability to enforce compliance" (although I did the quote from memory so check me on it.)
Some doctors and treatment providers say they can't share information because of federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, commonly referred to as HIPAA (pronounced Hip-a). It is arguable as to whether HIPPA prevents providing information to parents of people with serious mental illness, but it is inarguable that it does not prevent doctors from receiving information.
Connecticut Senate Bill 452 attempts to clarify this. It revises certain laws pertaining to the treatment of people with mental illness. Connecticut law already says
Every patient treated in any facility for treatment of persons with psychiatric disabilities shall receive humane and dignified treatment at all times, with full respect for his personal dignity and right to privacy. Each patient shall be treated in accordance with a specialized treatment plan suited to his disorder. Such treatment plan shall include a discharge plan which shall include, but not be limited to, (1) reasonable notice to the patient of his impending discharge, (2) active participation by the patient in planning for his discharge, and (3) planning for appropriate aftercare to the patient upon his discharge.But this bill adds a section stating:
Subject to the privacy protections afforded a patient under federal law, including, but not limited to, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (P.L. 104-191) (HIPAA), as amended from time to time, the head of a facility may direct that any person involved in the formulation of the patient's treatment plan or discharge plan communicate with, and obtain medical records from inpatient and outpatient health care providers who have previously treated the patient. In addition, when formulating such treatment plan or discharge plan, persons involved in the formulation of such plans may also communicate with any person with whom the patient has resided in the twelve-month period prior to being admitted to the facility and with the patient's spouse, parents, siblings or children in order to better understand the patient's medical needs.
It's a smart idea.