91 death certificates lost while being sent from one state office to another

CDPHE phasing out use of couriers as a result

DENVER - A package containing 91 death certificates was lost after being sent by courier from one state office to another in March, 7NEWS confirmed with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

Although the documents went missing during March, families impacted by the error haven't yet been notified, CDPHE told 7NEWS. The office has drafted a letter that they plan to send out next week.

The documents were being sent from the Tri-County Health Department to CDPHE by courier, but somehow went to the wrong state office. From there, they were sent to the CDPHE Cherry Creek office by courier, but never arrived. Tri-County Health, the state's largest local health department, served the residents of Adams, Arapahoe and Douglas Counties.

CDPHE told 7NEWS they do not know where the missing death certificates are. Trucks and buildings have been searched. Video surveillance has been reviewed.

"For a long time we believed we had it, we just couldn’t find it," said Bob O'Doherty Director of the Center for Health & Environmental Information & Statistics for the CDPHE.

Because of what happened, CDPHE is in the process of switching to using registered mail instead of couriers. They say Tri-County has already switched to using registered mail.

"We changed it (the delivery system) as soon as we realized we had that gap," said O'Doherty.

O'Doherty said in January 2015 the department will launch an electronic system eliminating the need for in-person delivery.  He added that the process of receiving certified death certificates was not impacted for the 91 families. 

"Anyone who needed a death certificate between then and now has received it," said O'Doherty.

The lost documents contain social security numbers and dates of birth, but CDPHE says there isn't much of a threat of identity theft because that information belonged to a deceased person. The Social Security Administration is immediately notified about a death, CDPHE said.

"I think it is not a very high threat. In our experience, death certificates are not a high threat for identity fraud," said O'Doherty.

7NEWS spoke with Daren Forbes, the Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of Horan & McConaty.  He said funeral directors also handle the same information contained in death certificates.

"We’re very careful and we have very clear policies and procedures in terms of how we handle this information," said Forbes. 

Forbes added that, "Even though the person is deceased, that information is still very personal, and I think to myself,  ‘If this information was out there, that it was for my parents, how would I feel about that?'  I would be uncomfortable.  And thus, I’m uncomfortable if that information for any one of our families that we’re serving was to be in the public domain and without authorization," said Forbes

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