How HIPAA Laws Prevent Family Members From Helping Their Loved Ones

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Alycia Schlesinger finally got the help she needed more than a year ago after living on the streets.

Following a 2 on Your Side report from TAUT Investigative Reporter Kristine Lazar, Schlesinger received the medical attention and financial assistance she needed and was reunited with her family while working as a personal assistant.

“There was a part of me that was always holding my breath, but I thought yes, that was it,” Schlesinger’s sister Cassie Godwin told Lazar. “She was back with my sister. She helped other people, she worked, she was on vacation with us. It was as if nothing had happened.”

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Unfortunately, the 50-year-old woman and former motivational speaker had her doctor discontinue her medication, and Godwin has said she’s gotten worse ever since.

Before that happened, Schlesinger had hopes of returning to work as a motivational speaker.

But her family is trying to figure out why the doctor chose to stop taking Schlesinger’s medication. Her family has gotten little to no answers from Schlesinger’s former doctor.

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TAUT


Schlesinger had to attend therapy several times a week by the courts because she had two outstanding felonies. One was from a car chase we covered in 2017.

But since the doctor stopped Schlesinger’s medication, she’s been back on the streets in the San Fernando Valley. She has been photographed and caught on camera spitting on people’s doorbells.

“Her cycle went from 0 to 1000 this time. Before it took 2 to 3 months for her to go into her psychosis. This time it was about 2 weeks,” Godwin said.

Godwin tried to contact her sister’s doctor’s office. She told them, “Please let the doctor know that Alycia is on a spiral and she’s going to lose it, and no one responded.”

Kathy Day of the treatment center told Lazar that family members like Godwin are often left out of the conversation because of what she calls “HIPAA handcuffs.”

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is a nationwide medical privacy law.

“The HIPAA handcuffs, that’s our inability to get through to help our loved ones when they’re in a treatment center, hospital, or prison,” Day said.

Stacey Tovino, a medical privacy expert and director of health law at the University of Oklahoma, said the problem is probably not HIPPA, but how medical professionals handle the law.

“A lot of people use HIPAA as a shield. They don’t want to reveal something, so they blame HIPAA, but HIPAA might allow the disclosure,” Tovino told Lazar. “Usually you don’t have a health and privacy law that, if broken, could result in someone going to jail and paying criminal penalties. So they don’t want to mess with it, so they just blame HIPAA.”

Unfortunately, that has put Schlesinger and her family in a difficult position.

She is now in jail after failing to report to one of her court-mandated therapy sessions. A judge ruled she is mentally incapable of standing trial and is now awaiting a bed in a state hospital.

“The last I heard a few months ago is that there is a waiting list of 1,700 inmates to get into these hospitals. We have 5 state hospitals for that,” Godwin said. “I have a lot of friends who say when are you going to give up and let her live the life she chose. My sister didn’t choose this.”

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