As Deputy Director, Mid-States Region, Chris focuses on legal issues related to the collection, maintenance, use, and storage of data for public health purposes. She also provides legal technical assistance and training related to legal issues around data, using plain English to relay often complex concepts and break down the inaccessibility of legal information.

The granddaughter of four immigrants and influenced by their experiences , Chris chose careers focused on mission-driven work. She served on the political organizing staff of ACORN, then directed a state chapter of the National Lawyers Guild in Boston where she co-founded and led a Street Law Clinic for youth on their 4th Amendment rights when stopped by police.  After law school she joined Atlanta Legal Aid, initially representing clients in housing conditions cases then public benefits, domestic violence, and other civil matters, ultimately managing a community branch office. She later represented immigrants in tax controversies as the coordinator of a Low-Income Taxpayer Clinic and trained clients on US taxpayer rights and responsibilities. Transitioning to practicing health law, she became a SME on the Affordable Care Act for a dental benefits company and later its privacy officer and director of health policy, leading its compliance program and lobbying for greater recognition of oral health’s role in overall health. Most recently she was Privacy Legal Counsel and Director of Solutions Integration on a CMS-funded DSRIP (Medicaid waiver) project in New Hampshire, connecting the legal issues in data sharing with the technical ones. The overall project resulted in improved care coordination for patients/clients regionally and greater health data sharing among local clinical, social service, education, criminal justice, and other sectors.

Chris assisted in the development of the health sector section of the NH Endowment for Health’s multi-sector Action Plan as part of its “Race & Equity in NH Series: Building Foundations for a More Equitable Future for All”. Her other recent volunteer work has included providing humanitarian relief and legal information to detained immigrants, annually judging high school civics competitions, and coordinating fundraising for her daughter’s school music program.

Chris received her Juris Doctorate from Northeastern University School of Law, Boston, MA and bachelor’s degrees in sociology and marketing from UMass/Amherst. She is admitted to practice law in Massachusetts, Georgia, and New Hampshire and is the mom of a fledgling adult. She regularly sends up thanks for the people who’ve given her all the opportunities above that not only put food on the table, but also fed her soul.

Articles & Resources

­Racial Equity Interests and Needs Assessment

ReportMechanisms for Advancing Health EquityMechanisms for Advancing Public Health

September 22, 2023
by Betsy Lawton, Carrie Waggoner, Chris Alibrandi O’Connor, Dawn Hunter, Kerri McGowan Lowrey, Phyllis Jeden and Sara Rogers

By May of 2020, the realities of the inequitable toll of COVID-19 on communities of color became starkly evident, and the murder of George Floyd sparked a renewed movement for racial justice in the United States. During this time, the Network began earnestly exploring how best to respond and be of assistance in a rapidly changing environment. An internal Health Equity Work Group (HEWG) was established to create a space for connection and learning, and to identify ways to collaborate across regions to be responsive to what we were observing and experiencing. One of the early actions identified by the HEWG was to “evaluate what services and supports Network users are interested in” via tools like an environmental scan, stakeholder interviews, and focus groups. This report explores the process that was undertaken to answer that question and the key findings and themes relevant to health and racial equity work across a variety of public health practitioners and organizations.

View page

Community Health Workers with Lived Experience of Incarceration Are Uniquely Suited to Serve Reentering Populations—But Legal Obstacles Impede Hiring Them

Law & Policy InsightsMechanisms for Advancing Public HealthMechanisms for Advancing Health EquityWorkforce Expansion

August 10, 2023
by Chris Alibrandi O’Connor and Colleen Healy Boufides

People who are incarcerated have higher rates of chronic health conditions, which tend to worsen upon their release, primarily due to the barriers to health care they experience. Despite evidence that employing Community Health Workers with lived experience of incarceration to serve individuals reentering their communities leads to better patient outcomes, significant barriers impede hiring them within health systems.

Read more

­Promoting Health Equity in Communities Affected by Mass Incarceration—Addressing Legal Obstacles to Hiring Formerly Incarcerated Individuals as Community Health Workers

Issue BriefHealth and Health CareWorkforce ExpansionMechanisms for Advancing Health EquityMechanisms for Advancing Public Health

August 10, 2023
by Chris Alibrandi O’Connor and Colleen Healy Boufides

Individuals returning from incarceration have more healthcare needs than the general population but face numerous barriers to receiving care. Specially trained community members with lived experience of incarceration, serving in the role of community health worker (CHW), are uniquely effective at engaging returning community members in health services. This issue brief provides examples of key legal barriers that may be encountered by individuals with incarceration histories who are seeking employment as CHWs along with ways in which policymakers and health systems can address these barriers.

View page

Public Health Agencies and What Woulda-Coulda-Mighta Helped Them Access SUD Records

Law & Policy InsightsHealth Information and Data SharingSubstance Use Prevention and Harm Reduction

May 30, 2023
by Chris Alibrandi O’Connor and Denise Chrysler

Public health agencies often find access to substance use disorder (SUD) data records especially challenging. Through the CARES Act, Congress harmonizes certain provisions of HIPAA and 42 CFR Part 2 —both of which governs disclosure of SUD records —and requires that HHS continue these efforts through rulemaking.

Read more

Confidentiality of Substance Use Patient Records: Key Provisions of The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking Changes to The Part 2 Rule

Fact SheetHealth Data Sharing and PrivacyFederal Privacy LawsDe-identification of DataPublic Health Advocacy and Decision-Making

January 24, 2023
by Chris Alibrandi O’Connor and Denise Chrysler

This Fact Sheet summarizes the key proposed provisions, identifies those which provide greater alignment with the HIPAA Rules, and calls out some areas on which HHS is specifically soliciting comments (due January 31, 2023). Of particular interest to the public health community, the Fact Sheet also presents the proposed changes to the data de-identification standard for disclosures of Part 2 data made to public health authorities.

View page

The (Largely) Unknown HIPAA Privacy Rule Provision that Speeds Access to Social Services

Law & Policy InsightsHealth Information and Data Sharing

October 6, 2021
by Chris Alibrandi O’Connor

Often a patient wants a health care provider to share her Protected Health Information (PHI) with a social service organization (SSO) for support that directly or indirectly relates to her health. A provider’s efforts to obtain written authorization to release PHI often delays a patient’s access to SSO support. That delay is compounded when the patient has to physically go to the provider’s office to sign the authorization, a challenge or even an impossibility for some individuals. This process to obtain patient authorization also takes precious clinical time from healthcare providers and their staff. What is often misunderstood is that sharing PHI for care coordination purposes does not require written authorization under HIPAA Privacy Rule.

Read more