RELEASE OF INFORMATION AND CONFIDENTIALITY POLICY
Information that cannot be associated with an individual’s identity is generally available for release to the public. For example, annual reports filed with the Rehabilitation Services Administration could be shared with the tribal council, Consumer Advisory Council or any individual requesting a copy. This policy conforms to the Freedom of Information Act, the Privacy Act, section 1106 of the Social Security Act, 45 CFR 205.50. For clarification or interpretation of this policy, the Project Director should be contacted.
All information acquired by vocational rehabilitation that is regarding an individual applying for or receiving services must remain the property of the department. It must only be used and released for purposes directly connected with the administration of the vocational rehabilitation program.
There are three factors to consider when making a determination to release information about a particular consumer to another party.
- The public’s right to know
- The individual’s right to privacy
- The life-saving benefit to a consumer or other party.
The public has a right to observe and examine how public agencies operate. Consumers also have a right to know what the project rules are and why it has made certain evaluations. Consumers do have a right to privacy, thus there must be a “compelling interest” shown before any type of confidential information is released without the consumer’s permission. If necessary, the release of information in order to benefit the consumer or another party, such as in the case of a life-threatening situation, can occur without consumer consent.
REASONS FOR CONFIDENTIALITY POLICY
This policy is established to provide general requirements regarding the safeguarding of consumer information. The policy describes the manner in which individuals may get access to their own records, as well as how the project decides to release information about individuals to managers of other programs. This policy deals with the concepts of supervision of staff and programs, outside evaluation, auditing program, and the investigation of fraud.
Property of the Department: The consumer records of the project are the property of the project. It is the information in those records that is considered for release. The records must not leave the possession of the project and its employees. If it is necessary to mail records, they should be sent certified mail.
Maintaining Consumer File Records: The project shall maintain in its records only such information about an individual that is relevant and necessary to accomplish any purpose of the project. This purpose is further described in the Grant Proposal supporting the funding of the Project. These consumer file records should be maintained in an orderly manner. Any information relating to the project’s evaluation of factual information should be labeled as such. Any such information should be stated as objectively as possible. Information related to case recording style and requirements is found in other appropriate sections of tbis manual.
Social Security Numbers– compliance with the federal Privacy Act of 1974 mandates that any application form using social security numbers must contain the following information:
- whether disclosure of social security numbers is required or voluntary
- If social security numbers are required, the statute that gives authority for requiring disclosure.
- Specific descriptions of the purpose of the social security number
- The effect, if any, of refusing to provide social security numbers.
AGENCY AGREEMENTS: COORDINATION WITH OTHER AGENCIES:
Federal law requires that the project maintain close coordination with other agencies that provide services to persons with disabilities. Such coordination avoids the duplication of services and economy results, minimizing confusion to the person being helped. Each agreement is found immediately following this section.
UTILIZING THE SERVICES OF OTHER HUMAN RESOURCES AGENCIES:
Project personnel are required to become familiar with the work of human resource agencies, with the objective of utilizing these services as a resource for the rehabilitation program. The agreements that follow this section support the above policy. Personnel are also expected to be constantly exploring other services that may be a resource to the project consumers, keeping current with policies of agencies that are utilized as resources by the project. Also, in all appropriate contacts with consumers, the personnel are to explain this policy and reinforce actions of consumers that generate resources, assisting in the successful completion of the Individualized Plan of Employment.
USE OF CONFIDENTIAL INFORMATION BY THE PROJECT:
Routine Release of Information-The project may use consumer record information for administrative purposes without the authorization of the consumer involved and without special notation in the consumer record. This includes (1) information released which is not and cannot be identified with a particular consumer and (2) information released for purposes directly related to the administration of programs or directly related to the administration of Spirit Lake Vocational Rehabilitation Program or Spirit Lake Tribe with related purposes. Among such routine releases of confidential information by the project are the following circumstances:
1. When the release is within the Project, Spirit Lake Vocational Rehabilitation Program, or Spirit Lake Tribe for administrative purposes
2. When the release is for the federal administrator of Spirit Lake Vocational Rehabilitation Program. This also includes Spirit Lake Tribe auditors working in their official capacities. There needs to be an identified need to know the information, and outside evaluators who have signed an appropriate confidentiality statement regarding their use of client records for evaluation purposes only. If possible, the client should be contacted to approve release.
3. Other federal or Tribal laws requiring the release of information in specific instances
4. Releasing to an organization whose programs supplement the program of the project, i.e. Spirit Lake Vocational Rehabilitation, or departments of Spirit Lake Tribe who may have been involved with activities that will be beneficial to clients. If possible, the client should be contacted to approve release.
IDENTITY OF INDIVIDUALS WHO REPORT ABUSE, NEGLECT, OR FRAUD:
The identity of individuals who report possible program abuses by consumers may not be revealed. The names and identifying information of individuals referring persons or families for protective services will not be released except by court order. All such references must be removed prior to any release of consumer records.
PENALTY FOR MISUSE
It is unlawful to disclose or use lists of consumer names for any purposes not directly connected with the administration of public assistance. It is also unlawful to disclose or use such lists for commercial or political purposes. The penalty upon conviction shall be as described in the codes related to court having jurisdiction in the matter.
REQUESTS FORCORRECTIONS ANDCORRECTIVEACTION:
Consumers who disagree with the information contained in their records have a right to request that the records be corrected. The following procedures should be followed:
Step 1: An administrative review by the Project Director must be performed. Written findings will be provided at the conclusion of the review.
Step 2: Clients are also encouraged to contact the Client Assistance Project (CAP), which is a state run advocacy organization for Rehabilitation clients.
To contact CAP:
North Dakota Client Assistant Project
600 S. 2nd St., Suite 1 B Bismarck, ND 58504
PROJECTCONTRACTS: All contracts between the project and another party shall contain a section on confidentiality if the nature of contract requires such guidelines. Contracts can include more specific requirements for confidentiality but cannot contradict this policy.
Information required on application forms –All project application forms for assistance or services must state that the confidential information provided by the consumer will be protected and used for purposes directly related to the administration of the project program. It should only be released to other parties as described in this policy.
RECEIVING AND PROCESSING VR REFERRAL:
- The following information received by the project constitutes a referral:
Name, address (or method of contact), disability, referral source and date of referral. The date this information is received should be in the Project Database as the date the client entered referral status. Other information recorded in the database at this time is the client’s name, address (if obtained), sex (unless unavailable), reported disability, and other information related to the database that was obtained.
- A case file is opened at the earliest possible time following the receipt of a new
- A contact report indicating all of the above information and any other pertinent information gained in the referral contact is to be reported in the contact
- The referral contact report ends with a notation in BOLD TYPE that the client entered referral
- Following the initial contact report, all collateral referral information contacts and all attempts to contact referral are to be reported in contact reports in the case
- To generate new referrals, VR Personnel will frequently contact referral
sources and inform them of the purpose, scope and eligibility requirements of the project.
Upon receipt of a referral, the responsible VR counselor or other appropriate project personnel will attempt to contact the person within 30 days. The project counselor or other appropriate project personnel will attempt to make an in-person or telephone contact with the applicant to explain VR services and find out if the person is interested in applying for such services. If an in-person contact cannot be made, then a contact will be attempted through written correspondence.
REPORT TO REFERRAL SOURCE:
The counselor will report to the referral sources the disposition of referred cases, if this requested by the referring agency. Only minimal information is required, e.g. an application was completed or the person was not interested in services. More complete information requires a release of information. If after contact the person decides not to apply for services or for some reason contact is not made with referral after several attempts then the case is closed. A contact report needs to be made detailing the closure decision. The date of the decision is recorded in the Project Database. The closure is recorded as an 8 in the database.
REFERRED PERSON INELIGIBLE FOR SERVICES:
If a person is not eligible for services, the counselor will advise that person of the availability of potential resources through other agencies.