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How Drug and Alcohol Treatment Programs Can Comply With the 2010 Census

February 26, 2010 Leave a comment

Many drug and alcohol residential programs and half-way houses have been asking how they can cooperate with census takers, as they make their rounds in 2010, without violating the federal confidentiality law and regulations. Programs are concerned about the two ways in which patient-identifying information could conceivably be disclosed: (1) a census enumerator allowed into a program to assist patients in filling out the census forms would learn the identities of patients; (2) the program itself, if it turned over census forms with its residents’ names to the Census Bureau, would identify the patients as persons receiving substance abuse treatment.

The Legal Action Center called the Census Bureau to determine exactly what information census takers will be seeking and how they plan to approach residential treatment programs. We believe we have found a way for programs to cooperate fully with census takers without jeopardizing the confidentiality of their patients’ identities.In sum, program staff may obtain training to self-enumerate, thereby avoiding the problem of a census representative interviewing patients directly. In addition, census forms do not require patient-identifying information.

Visit to read and download a detailed discussion of our findings.