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PR 15-15 The Providence Journal v. Rhode Island Department of Health – No Violation

The Providence Journal filed an APRA complaint because the Department of Health created a document that listed the number and location of drug overdose deaths, but did not list the number of overdose deaths in municipalities that had five (5) or less deaths, and otherwise listed "unknown location" in situations where the location of death was undetermined. The Department of Health did not maintain a single document responsive to the APRA request and the APRA did not require the Department of Health to create a document for purposes of fulfilling an APRA request. See R.I. Gen. Laws 38-2-3(h). Moreover, R.I. Gen. Laws 23-3-23 provides that "it shall be unlawful for any person to permit inspection of, or to disclose information contained in, vital records, or to copy, or issue a copy, of all or part of any vital record[.]" The term "vital records" includes records relating to death, and "data related to those records." R.I. Gen. Laws 23-3-1(18). Lastly, the Department of Health's records were not susceptible of determining the number of opioid related overdose deaths, as requested, and also could not further breakdown the location of the "unknown" deaths.

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