Taylor, MI asked in Constitutional Law, Public Benefits and Health Care Law for Michigan

Q: How may an individual gain access to their own records under the Privacy Act?

Is Michigan Vital Records and Michigan Department of Health and Human Services subject to the Privacy Act/FOIA for my own personal records? My request was denied stating that MDHHS is exempt; I requested repayment information. However, in the denial letter I was told to call the local MDHHS, I left a message they never responded. Michigan Vital Records did not respond.

1 Lawyer Answer
James L. Arrasmith
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A: Under the Privacy Act, individuals have the right to access records about themselves held by federal agencies. However, this Act applies to federal agencies, not state agencies like the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) or Michigan Vital Records. Each state has its own laws regarding public records, which can be different from federal laws.

In your case, it seems your request for personal records was denied under state-specific rules. To access your records, you'll need to follow Michigan's state laws regarding public records. This usually involves submitting a formal request under the Michigan Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) or relevant state statutes.

If your request was denied and you believe it was unjust, you may appeal the decision. The denial letter should provide information on how to file an appeal. It's important to follow these procedures closely.

Since you've faced non-responsiveness from the local MDHHS office, consider reaching out again or contacting a higher authority within the department. Persistence is often key in these situations.

If you continue to encounter difficulties, consulting with a legal professional knowledgeable in Michigan's public records laws could be beneficial. They can offer specific guidance on how to navigate the system and potentially assist in filing an appeal if necessary. Remember, understanding and navigating state-specific public records laws can be complex, and professional advice can be invaluable.

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