Voting Rights and Working with Children After Rehab

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Many argue that admitting you need help is the hardest part in beginning your journey toward recovery from drugs and alcohol. While this is a crucial step, the most difficult aspect of getting sober may actually be taking action.

A popular plan of action that has helped countless people start their road to recovery is spending time at a rehab facility. However, going to a drug and alcohol rehab center can seem scary and like an invasion of privacy. Many wonder if they go to rehab, will it show up on their permanent record? More specifically, will they be able to vote or work with children after deciding to spend time at a rehabilitation center? This fear may keep you from wanting to make that first vital decision of attending rehab.

One of the greatest assurances that going to rehab will not become public knowledge or affect your ability to vote or work with children is the HIPPA “Standards for Privacy of Individually Identifiable Health Information” (Privacy Rule). This is a legally mandated rule that protects “the individual’s past, present or future physical or mental health or condition, the provision of health care to the individual, or the past, present, or future payment for the provision of health care to the individual, and that identifies the individual or for which there is a reasonable basis to believe can be used to identify the individual” (http://www.hhs.gov/ocr/privacy/hipaa/understanding/summary/privacysummary.pdf).
This means that, legally, a rehab center cannot share any personal information with friends, family, other doctors, future employers, etc., unless you give them permission to do so. In addition, it can never be made public that you paid for time spent in a drug and alcohol rehab center. It is explicitly stated in the HIPPA laws that drug and alcohol abuse treatment records are protected under federal law.

Therefore, attending rehab should never interfere with voting right or the possibility of working with children in the future. However, it should be discussed that, often times, the events leading up to deciding that you are ready to enter into a rehab center involve DUI’s, misdemeanors, felonies, and a variety of legal troubles. This is nothing to be ashamed of. As you talk to more people with similar drug and alcohol issues, you will find that it is extremely common to come into rehab with a criminal record. You may be apprehensive about what this means for future voting rights and working with children.

DUI’s are a very common charge to have when entering a rehab center. In Arizona, most DUI’s are classified as misdemeanors, with the exception of an aggravated DUI, which is a class 4 felony. If you are dealing with a misdemeanor or only one felony charge, and are not currently serving jail time, it will not affect your right to vote. If you happen to have two or more felonies, it does not mean that you can never vote again. It just means that you will need to do a little extra work by petitioning the courts for a judicial restoration of civil rights. While the ultimate decision is up to the judge, taking steps such as going to rehab and staying sober increase your chances of such a restoration.

If working with children in the future is something that you are interested in, but you have a criminal record, it should be noted that some employers do ask for background checks. These jobs include, but are not limited to, child day care center or group day care and public school jobs. It is true that it is individual employer’s decision if they want to hire you given your criminal background, but it will help to be upfront with future jobs about your criminal record, especially if the information is going to show up on a background check.

It may seem overwhelming to face the world with a criminal history. You may worry that you will never be able to work with children or vote again due to multiple felonies. However, there is no better chance of being able to do both these activities in the future than getting sober. Getting sober means an increased chance of no further legal trouble. No matter how much trouble you have gotten into in the past, stopping the cycle now means making a better future for yourself. Also, if you are able to make the choice to attend a rehab facility, it means that you are not currently in jail, and this in itself is a blessing for all addicts. It may be helpful to take advantage of this moment of willingness to check into a rehab center. Go into rehab knowing that your stay will never become public knowledge. The only evidence of rehab that you have to take into the future with you is a better life and increased opportunities.