• State finding, removing records from shuttered institutions


    FOX UNDERCOVER (MyFoxBoston.com) -- State officials have already removed several boxes of records from mothballed institutions as part of a sweep launched in the wake of a FOX Undercover investigation into private medical records left behind at long-closed state mental hospitals and schools for the disabled.

    The action, which comes after an initial denial that records were left behind, is the start of a sweep of 21 campuses in Massachusetts that once housed clients under state care. The sweep was ordered by Massachusetts Secretary of Health and Human Services John Polanowicz.

    Evidence of the documents left behind is readily available online, where self-described urban explorers post pictures of what they find inside the buildings. One document, provided to FOX Undercover by a teenager who broke into the abandoned Dever State School in Taunton, shows details including the name and date of birth of the disabled student, the date of his admission and his parents' names and home address.

    The state says the removed records are being taken to a secure site where, after being tested for mold and parasites, they will be evaluated to see whether they must be preserved or destroyed.

    Polanowicz told the FOX 25 Morning News that there were different requirements for records when the buildings were turned over to other state agencies or otherwise mothballed than in place now.

    "We looked at it with the eye of, if we were to close this today, what are our requirements? So while the medical records were all moved, having an admission log on a clipboard still not acceptable with our privacy standards that we have today so they're going through each and every one of those buildings," Polanowicz said.

    While Polanowicz and a later statement from his agency insist that medical records were removed, urban explorers have told FOX 25 that they routinely find medical records full of personal information in abandoned state buildings.

    Regardless, Polanowicz now says there is a new policy in place to make sure that all records are removed any time a building is decommissioned.


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