In a press release, the Georgia Department of Human Services said no medical information or Social Security numbers were shared in the breach. The department oversees DFCS.
Since at least 2007, DFCS has provided the Empty Stocking Fund with a list of eligible families — ones that have received Medicaid or PeachCare with children age 12 and younger — so the nonprofit could send letters inviting them to participate. When speaking with their in-house attorneys before sending out this year’s list, DFCS officials learned they had violated federal law.
“While we have no reason to believe that anyone’s information was used in a way that would cause them harm, we are obligated to protect the privacy of those we serve,” interim DHS Commissioner Gerlda Hines said in a statement. “We have taken action to prevent future unauthorized disclosures, and to protect those who may have been affected by previous disclosures.”
This year, DFCS distributed some letters on behalf of the Empty Stocking Fund and the nonprofit increased its advertising outreach to let people know about the organization, said Manda Hunt, the fund’s executive director.
She said that while the number of families the Empty Stocking Fund helped dropped to about 35,000 from an average of 45,000, she believes the change will lead to the organization helping more people.
In the past, invited families were limited to those who received Medicaid or PeachCare. Now, Hunt said, any family receiving public assistance with children age 12 or younger can qualify to receive a gift.
“Ultimately, it was one of these things that was a tough year for us,” she said. “But at the end of the day, sometimes forced changes are a good.”
Anyone seeking more information about the breach can call 855-501-4636 between 7:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. for the next 90 days.
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