Attorney General: Honorable Aaron Ment, Chief Court Administrator, 1997-014 Formal Opinion, Attorney General of Connecticut

Attorney General's Opinion

Attorney General Richard Blumenthal

August 12, 1997

Honorable Aaron Ment
Chief Court Administrator
Judicial Branch
Hartford, CT 06115- 0474

Dear Judge Ment:

You have asked whether alternative sanctions contractors have authority to access medical and psychiatric records held by a juvenile detention center for juvenile delinquents assigned to the contractor's program without violating the confidentiality requirements contained in Chapters 899 and 368X of the Connecticut General Statutes. We conclude that such contractors do have authority, pursuant to section 12 of Public Act 95-225, to access such records without violating confidentiality requirements contained in other statutes.

Section 12 (c) of Public Act 95- 225 amended Conn. Gen. Stat. 46b-124 to provide in relevant part:

(c) Records of cases of juvenile matters involving proceedings concerning delinquent children may be disclosed to and between individuals and agencies, and employees of such agencies, involved in the delinquency proceedings or providing services directly to the child including ... agencies under contract with the Office of Alternative Sanctions. (emphasis added)

Subsection (b) of Section 12 defines "records of cases of juvenile matters involving proceedings concerning delinquent children" to include, inter alia, "medical, psychological, psychiatric and social welfare studies and reports by probation officers, public or private institutions, social agencies and clinics." By their terms, these provisions give authority to alternative sanctions' contractors to access medical and psychiatric records held by a juvenile detention center relating to delinquents assigned to the contractor's program for use in that program. You have indicated, however, that some medical providers have objected to such disclosure on the basis that it would violate the confidentiality provisions of Chapters 899 (dealing with medical, psychiatric and psychological records) and 368X (dealing with AIDS and HIV records) of the Connecticut General Statutes.

Chapter 899 of the Connecticut General Statutes provides general privileges for communications between psychologist and patient,  52-146c, psychiatrist and patient, 52-146d, and physician or other health care provider and patient, 52-146o, subject to certain exceptions not relevant here. Similarly, Chapter 368x provides for limitations on disclosure of HIV- related information.  19a- 583 et seq. Your question is whether these general confidentiality provisions take precedence over the disclosure mandates of Public Act 95- 225. We conclude that they do not.

Public Act 95-225 was enacted as part of a comprehensive overhaul of the juvenile justice system in Connecticut. See 38 H. R. Proc., Pt. 16, 1995 Sess., p. 5656. Among its key provisions were changes in the confidentiality requirements of the former statutes, which effectively prevented victims, court officials, agencies providing services to the delinquent, and the public from obtaining records of proceedings concerning delinquent children, and an increased emphasis on alternative sanctions for juveniles based on professional risk assessments, home monitoring, and community based facilities. The extensive legislative history surrounding passage of the Act reflects frustration with the severe problems caused by the former rigid and virtually all-encompassing practice of sealing the records of delinquent children, and making them unavailable even to those with a legitimate interest in them. See, for example, 38 H. R. Proc., Pt. 8, 1995 Sess., pp. 2938 -39 (remarks of Rep. Lawlor); 38 S. Proc., Pt. 11, 1995 Sess. pp. 3698- 3703 (remarks of Sen. Upson). An essential component of this legislation involves the exchange of relevant information concerning the child between and among all professionals engaged in the prosecution and treatment of the child.1

In the comprehensive plan to modify and improve the system, the legislature made an express, specific decision to make the delinquent child's records - including medical, psychiatric, psychological, and social welfare records - available to public and private agencies and institutions providing services to the child, including contractors with the Office of Alternative Sanctions. It is presumed that in enacting this statute, the legislature was aware of existing relevant legislation, including the confidentiality provisions contained in Chapters 899 and 368x of the General Statutes, South Windsor v. South Windsor Police Union, 41 Conn. App. 649, 653 (1996), and intended to create "a harmonious and consistent body of law." CHRO v. Truelove & Maclean, Inc., 238 Conn. 337, 347 (1996).

The express grant of authority to contractors of the Office of Alternative Sanctions to obtain all of the child's relevant records in order to carry out their responsibilies involving the child controls over the more general confidentiality provisions contained in other parts of the statutes. "'It is a well- settled principle of [statutory]construction that specific terms covering the given subject matter will prevail over general language of the same or another statute which might otherwise prove controlling..'" CHRO v. Truelove & Maclean, 221 Conn. at 346 (citations and internal quotations omitted).

In State v. White, 168 Conn. 223, 233-34 (1975), a similar issue was raised concerning the medical and psychiatric confidentiality provisions of  52-146d - 52-146j as they related to 19-492(c), which provided for the release of information concerning the treatment and rehabilitation of drug-dependent persons in connection with probation proceedings. The Court began by stating the general rule:

"Statutes which appear to be repugnant or allegedly inconsistent are to be accorded a concurrent effect if by a fair interpretation a reasonable field of operation for both can be found without destroying or perverting their evident meaning and intent; and it is presumed that the legislature intended existing relevant statutes be read so as to make one consistent body of law." Id. at 234.

Applying these principles, the Court ruled that the specific disclosure provisions contained in 19-492(c) provided exceptions to the general confidentiality provisions of Chapter 899, and were thus effective. Id.

The same analysis leads to the same conclusion here. The general confidentiality provisions contained in Chapters 899 and 368x are silent as to the availability of records to contractors of the Office of Alternative Sanctions for use in the evaluation and treatment of juvenile offenders. Consequently, the legislature's specific grant of authority to those contractors in Public Act 95- 225 to obtain records, including medical, psychological, psychiatric and social welfare records, creates an exception to the more general confidentiality provisions contained in other parts of the statutes.

Thus interpreted, the statutes may be given harmonious effect and act to carry out the intent of the legislature, which was to create an effective system of prosecution and treatment of delinquent children that includes as an integral part an exchange of information between and among providers of services and programs to those children. Without access to all the relevant records of the child, the contractors' ability to provide effective services would likely be diminished or thwarted, thus effectively nullifying the intent of the legislature.

We trust that this answers your question.

Very truly yours,

RICHARD BLUMENTHAL
ATTORNEY GENERAL

Carolyn K. Querijero
Assistant Attorney General


Footnote:

1 Rep. Lawlor, a sponsor of the legislation, stated: "Secondly, we have changed the provisions regarding confidentiality. A great many people were frustrated by the confidentiality in the juvenile justice system. In this bill, we allow any professional working within the system, in other words, the prosecutors, the probation officers, the Department of Children and Family social workers, the teachers, the police officers, people from private organizations which have contracted with the court to provide supervision to ... juveniles going through the system, can talk to one another about any case. There are no confidentiality restrictions for those people talking about cases pending within the system. 38 H. R. Proc., Pt. 8, 1995 Sess., p.2938.


Back to the 1997 Opinions Page
Back to Opinions Page



Content Last Modified on 6/6/2005 3:54:25 PM