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 Banner Seeks Records from Department of Health

January 21, 2009 - The Banner has filed a public record request with the Indiana State Department of Health in an effort to learn more about the process and reasoning that led to the state health commissioner’s decision to close the Indiana Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Children’s Home.

Two weeks ago, State Health Commissioner Dr. Judith Monroe announced her decision to close the Home at the end of the current school year. While she said her decision came following a three-year study, Monroe told The Banner that there was no official report that presented the findings of the task force that carried out the study.

The ISDH did forward to The Banner copies of the 18-page PowerPoint presentation that was used to brief Monroe before she met with employees at the Home on Jan. 7, as well as a three-page summary of the ISDH’s position on the closing. Most of the information in those documents, however, is conclusory in nature, with the sources of the data relied upon to draw those conclusions not identified.

The Banner’s record request, which was faxed and e-mailed to the ISDH on Monday, covers records created over a four-year period, starting Jan. 1, 2005, and extending through a date no earlier than seven days before the ISDH provides the requested records. Jennifer Dunlap, public affairs director for the ISDH, told The Banner on Tuesday that she would respond to the newspapers request by Monday, Jan. 26, and would, at that time, let The Banner “know what records we have that are responsive to (the) request as well as how soon we expect to be able to produce said records.”

Records requested by The Banner include minutes from all meetings held since Jan. 1, 2005, by the Home’s eight-member advisory board, the ISDH eleven-member executive board and the task force that did the three-year study of the Home. Minutes have also been requested for meetings of any task force that continues to deal with issues related to the closing and/or possible alternative uses for the Home’s grounds and facilities or issues related to the transition of Home students and employees.

The ISDH has also been asked to provide copies of all semiannual statistical reports for the Home during the covered time period. Additionally, The Banner has asked for copies of “any and all reports, memos or other documents” created by the task force that did the three-year study or any task force that continues to deal with Home issues.

Finally, The Banner has asked for copies of “any and all correspondence or written communication,” including e-mails, that were either sent by or received by a number of individuals or involved task forces since Jan. 1, 2005. Included on the list of senders and recipients are Monroe, any other ISDH employee, members of the Home advisory board, Gov. Mitch Daniels or anyone in his office, or any other public agency or nongoverment owned business or entity that took part in the three-year study.

The Banner is not alone in requesting records or information from the ISDH. During a meeting she and five other lawmakers had with Monroe on Tuesday, Jan. 13, Sen. Jean Leising (R-Dist. 42) told Monroe she wants the ISDH to provide her with a breakdown of per student costs at the Home, separating the educational component from the housing and other costs.

“I said I was dead serious,” Leasing told The Banner. “I said, ‘I’m sorry. I’m not going to let you go until I get this, because you can’t tell me, if you’ve been studying this for three years, that someone hasn’t looked at the education costs.’”

Leising, who has been critical of the closure decision and the lack of advance notice to lawmakers, said she planned to have her legislative assistant call the ISDH everyday to see if they have the numbers she requested.


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