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Confidential Records from MHMR Tarrant Found in Trash

Documents include medical records of children with special needs

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    An investigation is underway into how dozens of confidential documents, including medical records of children with special needs, ended up in the trash. (Published Tuesday, Jan. 27, 2015)

    An investigation is underway into how dozens of confidential documents, including medical records of children with special needs, ended up in the trash.

    The records, some dating back at least 10 years, were discovered Friday in Arlington. They were dumped outside the office of Mental Health Mental Retardation of Tarrant County, where the Early Childhood Intervention program was located.

    “I'm so sorry we're talking about this,” said MHMR Tarrant spokeswoman Catherine Carlton. “We take confidential information very seriously and this is troubling. As soon as we heard about it, we launched an investigation.”

    Carlton said Tuesday that the agency’s investigation, which began over the weekend, had been turned over to Arlington police.

    Arlington police spokeswoman Tiara Ellis Richard said she could not immediately find a report on the incident or confirm the investigation.

    A former MHMR employee, Patricia Martinez, said she found the trash Friday night outside the agency’s office in the 1600 block of East Pioneer Parkway.

    She said she had been called by a former co-worker who told her the office was closing and they were discarding toys, medical devices and other items. Carlton said anything of value would not have been thrown away.

    Martinez said she went to the building and was shocked to find on the curb about seven clear plastic trash bags with documents inside.

    "The first one that I opened contained patient medical records,” she said. “I saw patients' names, dates of birth, their Social Security numbers. There was financial information about the family.”

    She called another former co-worker, Wendy Melton, who arrived a short time later.

    "I was mortified,” Melton said.

    The records also included hundreds of Social Security numbers of former employees, including Michelle Hensley's.

    "I'm flabbergasted,” Hensley said.

    Private medical records of young children also were in the trash.

    “It is very, very personal,” said Stephen Deal, whose 8-year-old daughter Grace has Down syndrome and received help from MHMR.

    "There's a lot of personal information that was shared with us and the caseworker, and us and the therapist that I would rather not have available to everyone,” Deal said.

    Deal added he was pleased with the help he received from MHMR but was disappointed to learn that some of his daughter’s records were found in the trash.

    Carlton said the agency usually takes confidential information very seriously and that the documents should have been secured or shredded.

    She said MHMR did not know how the documents ended up in the trash.

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