How to Request Public Records

The Governor’s Office issued Governor’s Proclamation 20-28 which relates to the Open Public Meetings Act and the Public Records Act.

Summary of Proclamation 20-28 as it Relates to the Public Records Act (PRA)

This proclamation temporarily prohibits in-person contacts with the public that are required under the Public Records Act (PRA) (RCW 42.56) and suspends some statutory language that would require such contacts.  This proclamation also temporarily suspends the PRA’s requirements for agencies to respond to PRA requests for public records within five business days from receipt, and to maintain business hours for public inspection and copying of records for a minimum of 30 hours per week.  It is effective from March 24, 2020 until midnight, April 23, 2020, unless extended beyond that date.

Temporary Modifications to DSHS Public Records Processing

  • Many DSHS public records employees are teleworking from home. For this reason, responding to requests received by mail or fax may be delayed. At this time, the best way to submit a public records request is throughDSHSPublicDisclosure@dshs.wa.gov.
  • Under the Governor’s proclamation the requirement to respond to new public records requests within five business days is currently suspended. However, DSHS will attempt to respond to all new requests as soon as we are able.
  • DSHS will continue to process existing public records requests that do not require in-person contact. We will primarily communicate with requesters by email or phone. Due to a limited ability to be in DSHS offices, public records staff may need to send extensions on public records responses during this time, especially if our only means of contacting a requester is by mail or fax. However, we will make every effort to continue to timely process requests based on our current capabilities.  
  • Requesters can typically schedule inspection appointments at a DSHS office during business hours. Based on the Governor’s proclamation, all public records inspections will be halted until April 23, 2020. In lieu of inspection, DSHS may choose to provide records through email or secure file transfer sites (SFT).

 

The Department of Social and Health Services provides records as required by state law (RCW 42.56).

DSHS believes in the importance of the public’s right to know about its operations and activities. Many public documents are available on the DSHS website and may be located by using the search function on the site.

If you do not find the information you seek on the website, or if you are seeking client records, you may make a public records request. You may use the Request for Records form or send your request to:

DSHS Public Records Officer
Office of Information Governance
PO Box 45135
Olympia WA 98504-5135

Phone: (360) 902-8484
Fax: (360) 902-7855
Email: DSHSPublicDisclosure@dshs.wa.gov

DSHS rules about processing public records requests are located in Chapter 388-01 WAC.

How to Request a Copy of a Public Record

You may make a public disclosure request to any office of DSHS. You should ask to contact the Public Records Coordinator appointed for that office. If you don’t know which office has the records you seek or are seeking records from different parts of DSHS, you can send your request to the Public Records Officer, as shown above.

If your request includes a list of individuals please complete the Declaration on Commercial Purposes form certifying the list will not be used for commercial purposes.

Confidential and Exempt Records: State and federal law exempt some DSHS records from disclosure because they contain client information. By law, DSHS may not disclose these records outside DSHS or its authorized partners with limited exceptions. Certain types of personal information about DSHS employees is also confidential.

If you are requesting confidential records about someone other than yourself, you must have that person’s permission to obtain those records. You can use the DSHS Authorization form or another form that complies with state and federal laws to allow you to see or obtain copies of those records. If you are a client and want someone to have copies of your records, you may fill out this form. Attorneys, please note that a subpoena is generally not sufficient to obtain DSHS client records. If you do not have permission or other legal authority to have confidential records, DSHS will deny your request for records.

If you are only seeking records from Western State Hospital (WSH), you may send your request to: WSHPublicDisclosure@dshs.wa.gov.