MDCH Offers Identity Theft Protection To Study Participants After Data Apparently Stolen

Contact: T.J. Bucholz (517) 241-2112
Agency: Community Health

September 15, 2006

LANSING - The Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH) will offer identity theft protection to more than 4,000 current and former Michigan citizens who have been participating in a long-term scientific study, after an apparent theft may have put personal information at-risk.

"I am outraged that it appears that someone would steal such valuable information from these citizens and the state," said Janet Olszewski, MDCH Director. "We have contacted these citizens and expressed the state's regret for any distress that this theft has caused these citizens. We take the protection of all sensitive information very seriously.”

Olszewski said MDCH also is tightening its security protocols and have referred this criminal act to the Michigan State Police for their investigation.

“We will begin offering identity theft protection to citizens affected by this theft immediately,” Olszewski said. “Our priority in this case is to help ensure that the identity of these citizens is safeguarded."

MDCH also has notified Capitol View Building management staff, and has already instituted a thorough review of MDCH internal security protocols for sensitive data. All 4,000 participants in the study were sent notification letters of the security problem on September 12, Olszewski said. Individuals affected by the incident who believe their identity to be at risk of being stolen will have their credit monitored for one year - at no cost to them.

The information was part of the state's PBB Long Term Study, and has been missing from a secured floor in an MDCH building since August 4. The ensuing investigation discovered on September 8 that the missing flash drive contained names, current addresses, telephone numbers, social security numbers, and dates of birth. The missing data did not include any health information, medical records, or laboratory information.

Olszewski said MDCH tirelessly works to keep sensitive information of this nature secure. Paper microfiche files for past and current scientific studies are kept in locking file cabinets in locked rooms with restricted access. Computer files have personal information removed - those with personal information are kept on a single computer, which is password protected with restricted access. In addition to these safeguards, all 5,500 MDCH employees will undergo planned security training in the coming months.