Polk County Decategorization





Polk County Decategorization (“Decat”) is committed to protecting the security and confidentiality of individuals who receive services through Decat contracts. This Notification, as required by law, is regarding a potential breach relating to improper disclosure and improper disposal of personal information which may have included protected health information relating to parent(s) and chid(ren) involved in a Child Welfare Decategorization Program between 2011 and 2012.

On October 30, 2018, a breach was discovered where a file containing documents regarding Juvenile Court child welfare matter(s) were found under a tree in a remote vacant lot in east Des Moines by a concerned citizen who was walking her dog.  The recovered documents were not complete files.  Iowa Department of Human Services (“DHS”) was immediately contacted and took possession of the files.  A breach assessment was conducted where it was determined that the last known individual who had possession of the files/documents was an independent contractor.  The independent contractor no longer provides services on behalf of Polk County Decategorization.

DHS returned the documents containing the confidential information to Polk County Health Services, Inc., who was contracted by the Iowa Department of Human Services to provide Decategorization Coordination services between 2011 to 2012.  Polk County Decategorization has secured the documents in a locked and safe location.

The breach resulted due to a possible theft, misappropriation of the documents, unauthorized dissemination and/or disposal of the documents in a manner that is inconsistent with Polk County Decategorization’s policy and procedures.  It appeared that the documents had recently been disposed of in the vacant lot prior to its discovery.

We believe this incident involved the unauthorized disclosure and/or improper disposal of the protected health information and/or personal identifiable information.  Information that may have been compromised include individual’s name and one or more of the following:  address, date of birth, reference to substance abuse, reference to substance abuse treatment, reference to drug testing and/or drug testing results, reference to mental health, reference to health (medical) information, reference to prescription medication or name of health care provider.  For some individuals, information may have included Social Security numbers.

The breach investigation has taken some time to determine the personal information disclosed, determine what individual(s)  had access to the information contained in the documents in order to mitigate further dissemination of personal information.

Although Polk County Decategorization does not have evidence that information was used improperly, Polk County Decategorization is required to provide substitute notice to those individual(s) involved regarding this information so these individuals can take swift personal action to reduce or eliminate any negative consequences of the breach.  To help protect your identity, we recommend you take immediate steps to protect yourself from possible potential harm.  This may include the following precautions:

  • Registering a fraud alert with the three credit bureaus listed below:
    • Experian:  (888) 397-3742; www.experian.com; PO Box 9532, Allen, TX  75013;
    • TransUnion: (800) 680-7289; www.transunion.com; Fraud Victim Division, PO Box 6790; Fullerton, CA  92834-6790;
    • Equifax: (800) 525-6285; www.equifax.com; PO Box 740241, Atlanta, CA  30374-0241.
  • Ordering your free credit report from all three credit bureaus:
  • Monitoring your financial and health account statements and credit bureau reports.

If you believe you are the victim of identity theft or have reason to believe your personal information has been misused, you should immediately contact the Federal Trade Commission and/or the Attorney General’s consumer protection office in your state.  You can obtain information from these sources about steps you can take to avoid identity theft and information about fraud alerts and security freezes.  Additionally, you should file a police report with your local law enforcement agency.  You should obtain a copy of the police report if your creditors request a copy to correct your records.

Federal Trade Commission:  Federal Trade Commission, Consumer Response Center, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC  20580, www.ftc.gov/idtheft or call 1-877-IDTHEFT (438-4338).

Iowa Attorney General’s Office:  Office of the Attorney General of Iowa, Hoover State Office Building, 1305 E. Walnut Street, Des Moines, Iowa 50319 or call 515-281-5164.  You can also obtain information about steps you can take to avoid identity theft from the Iowa Attorney General’s website: www.iowaattorneygeneral.gov.

Additionally, Polk County Decategorization will provide, at no cost to those individual(s) affected, free credit monitoring for twelve (12) months if you so desire.

To help prevent something like this from happening in the future, Polk County Decategorization has taken the following steps to protect confidential information:

  • Contacted local Law Enforcement Agency to assist in the investigation;
  • Interviewed the independent contractor regarding the breach of the found documents that had been in his possession;
  • Interviewed the previous Polk County Decategorization Parent Partner Coordinator regarding the breach of the Decategorization documents;
  • Contacted the private citizen who discovered the documents to ensure and verify that the individual’s Facebook posting(s) that included photos of the documents was removed and deleted from the individual’s postings;
  • Conducted a search of the area where the documents were located to ensure that all the documents were retrieved and secured;
  • Notified the agency who currently contracts with the Iowa Department of Human Services regarding similar services and who has a current contract with the independent contractor;
  • The found files/documents have been secured in a locked location with Polk County Decategorization.

Polk County Decategorization regrets having to advise those affected individual(s) of this incident, which we take very seriously.  We are fully committed to assuring the security of your data.   Polk County Decategorization  sincerely apologizes for this incident and regret any inconvenience it may cause you.  If you believe that you or your child may have been affected by this incident and have any questions regarding this incident, please do not hesitate to contact the Polk County Decategorization Coordinator at (515) 725-2729 or tburke@dhs.state.ia.us or call our toll free number: 1-833-894-4552