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General Laws

Section 135A. All communications between a social worker licensed pursuant to the provisions of section one hundred and thirty-two or a social worker employed in a state, county or municipal governmental agency, and a client are confidential. During the initial phase of the professional relationship, such social worker shall inform the client of such confidential communications and the limitations thereto as set forth in this section and section one hundred and thirty-five B, in accordance with sound professional practice.

No such social worker, colleague, agent or employee of any social worker, whether professional, clerical, academic or therapeutic, shall disclose any information acquired or revealed in the course of or in connection with the performance of the social worker’s professional services, including the fact, circumstances, findings or records of such services, except under the following circumstances:

(a) pursuant to the provisions of this section and section one hundred and thirty-five B or any other law;

(b) upon express, written consent of such client or, in the event of a client incompetent to consent, of a guardian appointed to act in the client’s behalf;

(c) upon the need to disclose that information which is necessary to protect the safety of the client or others if

(1) the client presents a clear and present danger to himself and refuses explicitly to voluntarily accept further appropriate treatment. In such circumstances, where the social worker has a reasonable basis to believe that a client can be committed to a hospital pursuant to section twelve of chapter one hundred and twenty-three, the social worker shall take appropriate steps within the legal scope of social work practice, to initiate proceedings for involuntary hospitalization. The social worker may also contact members of the client’s family or other individuals if in the social worker’s opinion, it would assist in protecting the safety of the client;

(2) the client has communicated to the social worker an explicit threat to kill or inflict serious bodily injury upon a reasonably identified victim or victims and the client has the apparent intent and ability to carry out the threat or has a history of physical violence which is known to the social worker and the social worker has a reasonable basis to believe that there is a clear and present danger that the client will attempt to kill or inflict serious bodily injury against a reasonably identified victim or victims. In either of such circumstances, any duty owed by a social worker to warn or in any other way protect a potential victim or victims shall be discharged if the social worker takes reasonable precautions. No cause of action shall lie against, nor shall legal liability be imposed against, a social worker for failure to warn or in any other way protect a potential victim or victims, unless the social worker fails to take such reasonable precautions. Nothing in this paragraph shall require a social worker to take any actions which, in the exercise of reasonable professional judgment, would endanger such social worker or increase the danger to a potential victim or victims;

(d) in order to collect amounts owed by the client for professional services rendered by the social worker or his employees; provided, however, that the social worker may disclose only the nature of services provided, the dates of services, the amount due for services and other relevant financial information; and, provided, further, that if the client raises as a defense to said action substantive assertions concerning the competence of the social worker or the quality of the services provided, the social worker may disclose whatever information is necessary to rebut such assertions;

(e) to initiate a proceeding under paragraph C of section twenty-three or section twenty-four of chapter one hundred and nineteen, or section three of chapter two hundred and ten or to give testimony in connection therewith;

[There is no clause (f).]

(g) where the social worker has acquired the information while acting as an elder protective services worker for a designated protective services agency as defined in section fourteen of chapter nineteen A and has acquired the information while conducting an assessment in accordance with section eighteen of said chapter nineteen A;

(h) where the social worker has acquired the information while conducting an investigation pursuant to subsections (b) and (c) of section four or section five of chapter nineteen C;

(i) in the case of marital therapy, family therapy or consultation in contemplation of such therapy, with the written consent of each adult patient participant.

The provision of information acquired by a social worker from a client to any insurance company, nonprofit hospital service corporation, medical service corporation or health maintenance organization or to a board established pursuant to section twelve of chapter one hundred and twenty-six B, pertaining to the administration or provision of benefits, including utilization review or peer review, provided for expenses arising from the out-patient diagnosis or treatment or both, of mental or nervous conditions, shall not constitute a waiver or breach of any right to which said client is otherwise entitled under this section.

No provision of this section shall be construed to prevent a nonprofit hospital service or medical service corporation from inspecting and copying, in the ordinary course of determining eligibility for or entitlement to benefits, any and all records relating to diagnosis, treatment or other services provided to any person, including a minor or incompetent, for which coverage, benefit or reimbursement is claimed, so long as the policy or certificate under which the claim is made provides that such access to such records is permitted. No provision of this section shall be construed to prevent access to any such records in connection with any coordination of benefits, subrogation, workers’ compensation, peer review, utilization review or benefit management procedures applied and implemented in good faith.

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