On January 6, 2016, HHS published a final rule to modify the HIPAA Privacy Rule to expressly permit certain HIPAA covered entities to disclose to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) the identities of individuals who are subject to a federal “mental health prohibitor” that disqualifies them from shipping, transporting, possessing, or receiving a firearm for mental health reasons.  The rule is intended to balance public safety goals with patient privacy interests to ensure that individuals are not discouraged from seeking voluntary mental health treatment.  Under the final rule, only covered entities with lawful authority to make the adjudications or commitment decisions that make individuals subject to the federal mental health prohibitor, or that serve as repositories of information for NICS reporting purposes, are permitted to disclose information to the NICS.  Disclosure is restricted to limited demographic and certain other information needed for NICS purposes; the rule specifically prohibits disclosure of diagnostic or clinical information and any mental health information beyond the indication that the individual is subject to the federal mental health prohibitor.  The final rule is effective on February 5, 2016.