The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) has restricted access to the indices for vital records (birth, death) effective April 8, 2009. Only authorized personnel are now permitted to research the indices. In speaking with the Commissioner's office, I was advised that anyone may pay $15 to have the staff research a specific name for three years. More years requires additional payment. As genealogists, we would like to retain the opportunity to review the indices ourselves. There is nothing as of this posting reflecting the change postedon the DOHMH website. (http://www.nyc.gov/html/doh/html/home/home.shtml)
TheDOHMH has birth indices/records after 1909 and death indices/records after 1948. (TheNew York City Municipal Archives has birth indexes prior to 1910 and death indexes prior to 1949 http://www.nyc.gov/html/records/html/vitalrecords/home.shtml.)
In 2008 the DOHMH adopted a resolution to repeal and reenact Article 3 of the NewYork City Health Code: see:http://www.nyc.gov/html/doh/downloads/pdf/notice/article-3-adoption-June-2008.pdf Section §3.25. (page 4) states the amendment is for the protection of the privacy of persons who are subjects of the information while providing for the conditions underwhich information may be disclosed. Also §3.27 which permitted access to the printed indices of vital statistics records has been repealed in its entirety. This was the section that permitted anyone to review the indices available at the DOHMH. The stated rationale for repeal is due to concerns over abuse in access which can lead to identity theft and security risks. The resolution states while this is a Department determination, they are taking into consideration the federal regulations for the Health Insurance Portability andAccountability Act (HIPPA). This is not the usual interpretation of HIPPA which is the standard for protecting the privacy of patient medical records and other health information provided to health care providers.
As we learn more about this new restriction and attempts to change the resolution it will be reported on this forum.
Thank you to Joy Rich, editor of Dorot, JGS, Inc, and Chapter Representative, NewYork Metro Chapter Association of Professional Genealogists for bringing this to my attention.
Jan Meisels Allen
Director, IAJGS and
Chairperson, Public Records Access Monitoring Committee