Public records requests keep DHW busy

As the state of Idaho celebrates the 25th anniversary of the public records law, it’s worth noting that the Department of Health and Welfare received 1,137 public records requests in calendar year 2014. That’s an increase of nearly a third from the 880 we received in 2013.

The vast majority of those requests were from the public, not the media, which submitted just 20 requests for public records in 2014.

We do our best to be timely and to offer as much data and information as exists in our systems, while carefully protecting people’s privacy. DHW has one employee whose sole job is to log, track and manage public records requests. The main work is done by other employees in each division who locate and produce the data, which can be from public assistance programs, Medicaid, Vital Statistics or other programs.

Just for kicks, let’s estimate that each request takes the full two free hours allowed by law before hourly rates kick in. (We know, for the sake of argument, that some take less time, and some take more.) Even so, at two hours per request, that’s 2,274 hours spent on compiling and filling the requests. When you divide that by the typical work week of 40 hours, that’s roughly 57 work weeks spent fulfilling public records requests.

So far this year, we’ve received 259 public records requests, including five from media. If we assume 300 requests per quarter, that puts DHW on track to hit the 1,200 mark.

It’s going to be another busy year.

– Niki Forbing-Orr, PIO

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