LEWISTON – Margaret Johnson of New Gloucester happens to share the same name as a court-appointed advocate for young clients of the Department of Health and Human Services.

The department has been mailing confidential records to Johnson, believing her to be the advocate. She’s not.

And she’s been horrified to receive three separate packets of confidential records concerning two cases of alleged child abuse in Lewiston.

Included in the packets have been parental driving and criminal history records, physical examination records, a woman’s birth history, confidential information on the children’s physical history, and the location of the children now.

There have also been photos of the children and narration of how they had been treated, all contained in envelopes with DHHS cover letters that state possession of confidential material by anyone not authorized to have it is “a serious offense” because the material contained in the packets is “sensitive in nature and could result in embarrassment or emotional distress if made public.”

“All parties,” the letter goes on to warn, “should be cautioned that unauthorized re-release of records is a violation of law.”

The first time Johnson received a packet, she said she brought it to the Lewiston DHHS office and explained she was not supposed to have gotten it. “They said I wouldn’t get any more of the letters,” Johnson said.

Then, “I got two other ones.”

As soon as Johnson realized what was in the packets, she didn’t read them, but she is concerned about the health and safety of the children involved. “No one’s helping these kids, obviously, if the papers are ending up here. It if was my kids, I’d be really upset,” she told News 13.

DHHS Commissioner Brenda Harvey expressed dismay.

“This is embarrassing; it’s frustrating and, like the public, we find it unacceptable,” she said.

“I think we need to hold people accountable, hold ourselves accountable, and then we need to take whatever actions are necessary,” Harvey told News 13.

According to Harvey, the person responsible for mailing the information to Margaret Johnson of New Gloucester instead of the intended advocate Margaret Johnson “is no longer employed” by DHHS.

“Human beings do this work. Human beings make errors. And there are certain errors that we make corrections for and certain errors that are intolerable,” Harvey said.

News 13, which received the packets from Johnson, contacted the children’s mother mentioned in the confidential records. The woman was furious to find out that DHHS has shared confidential information about herself and her children with someone it shouldn’t have, but declined to speak to News 13 on camera.

The information mailed to Johnson has been returned to DHHS.


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