State mistakenly released Ohioans' health info

Posted at 11:30 AM, May 10, 2016

COLUMBUS, Ohio — The state says it inadvertently released the protected health information of 59,000 Ohioans who have received mental health services.

Ohio's Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (OhioMHAS) says the breach happened in February when the agency mailed postcards inviting patients to participate in a satisfaction survey.

The information included patients' full names and addresses — not mental health conditions, any services received or information that could lead to identity theft. However, by requesting participation in the survey, the postcards disclosed that recipients had received mental health or addiction treatment.

The department says the request should've been sent in a sealed envelope to avoid the patients' association. The agency says the postcards have been mailed without envelopes for the past five years to 59,000 people.

“OhioMHAS takes very seriously its commitment to the privacy and protection of people receiving mental health treatment,” stated Director Tracy Plouck in a news release. “We regret this situation and any concern it may cause, and we are committed to diligently safeguarding consumer information moving forward.”

As a result, OhioMHAS is undergoing a thorough review of its internal processes and policies relating
to consumer outreach and data use to assure better oversight and protection of health information, including additional training for all department staff members.

OhioMHAS will be notifying individuals impacted by this privacy incident via U.S. mail using sealed envelopes, as well as through a notice on the OhioMHAS website. A toll free phone line (855) 691-3339 has been established for questions.

See examples of the postcards sent out in the box below.