Which facilities or provider agencies are subject to these records requests?

Facilities or provider agencies which are under the jurisdiction of the Justice Center for purposes of reporting alleged incidents of abuse or neglect are subject to the new records access provisions. The new Social Services Law §488(4) defines those facility and provider agencies.

What must a requester specify when making a request for your records?

A person requesting facility or provider agency records through the Justice Center must include a reasonable description of the records they are seeking. Because the records have to relate to abuse or neglect, we will require information from the requester to determine whether the request relates to abuse or neglect including relevant dates, the name of the facility or provider, and the type records they are seeking. The Justice Center will communicate with the requester and the facility or provider agency, as necessary, to clarify what records might be responsive to the request.

What is the process for determining what records will be disclosed?

After a determination has been made about what records are responsive to the described record request, the Justice Center will coordinate with the facility or provider agency to obtain those records in an expedient and least burdensome manner.

The Justice Center will then review the records in consultation with you, if necessary, to determine which records are subject to release under the applicable FOIL rules. Those rules are the ones that apply to state agencies, and are made applicable to facilities and provider agencies by the Protection of Persons with Special Needs Act. The rules for determining which records can be withheld are in Public Officers Law §87(2).

What records can be disclosed?

Under the statute, the only records that must be disclosed are records that “relate to abuse or neglect of a vulnerable person”. Whether or not a record “relates to abuse or neglect of a vulnerable person” will depend on the circumstances and will be reviewed on a case-by case-basis.

What records are exempt from disclosure?

The FOIL rules contained in the Public Officers Law permit an agency to deny access to public records that are specifically exempted from disclosure. Some commonly used exemptions are for records specifically exempt from disclosure under state or federal law, records whose release would result in an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy, or internal communications so long as they are not instructions to staff that affect the public, or that are not final policy or determinations. The complete list of exemptions can be found in Public Officers Law §87(2).

How will the Justice Center make its determination?

The application of the FOIL rules is often situation specific. This means that the Justice Center may review a broader range of records when responding to a request than those that will be made public. Some records may be disclosed but with redactions to comply with restrictions on disclosure.

What is the timeline for responding to records requests?

The Justice Center will acknowledge a request for records within 10 calendar days of receipt and will communicate with the relevant facility or provider agency to identify responsive records for review. Records shall be disclosed to the requester within a reasonable time thereafter, as determined by the complexity of the request, the volume of records, the ease or difficulty for the facility or provider agencies to locate or retrieve records, the need to review records to determine the extent to which they must be disclosed or other circumstances.

What must the facility or provider do?

You must cooperate with the Justice Center in identifying responsive records and coordinate with the Justice Center to make those records available for review in a timely manner, being sure to keep the Justice Center informed about any difficulties or delays in locating records.

Justice Center Procedures for Processing Disclosure Requests for Facility or Provider Agency Records Relating to Abuse or Neglect

The Protection of People with Special Needs Act provides the public with new access to facility or provider agency records “relating to abuse and neglect of vulnerable persons.” Effective June 30, 2013, requests for your records will be made directly to the Justice Center. The Justice Center will apply Freedom of Information Law [FOIL] rules to determine which records, if any, must be disclosed. The Justice Center will communicate with the relevant facility or provider agency to identify, obtain and review records that might be subject to disclosure. This guidance document is intended to assist you in responding to requests for disclosure of your agency’s records.