January 2020 Vital Records News

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Vital Records News

January 2020

New Chief Medical Examiner for Ramsey County Medical Examiner Office

Effective January 1, 2020, Dr. Kelly Mills became the Chief Medical Examiner for the Ramsey County Medical Examiner’s Office. Her office has jurisdiction over the deaths that occur in 18 counties: Aitkin, Blue Earth, Cass, Clay, Crow Wing, Freeborn, Hubbard, Kanabec, LeSueur, Murray, Nicollet, Nobles, Martin, Ramsey, Redwood, Waseca, Washington, and Wilkin. 

The Office of Vital Records updated  Minnesota Registration and Certification (MR&C). Funeral staff must select Dr. Mills for 2020 deaths in those counties when:

  • Cremation, donation, or alkaline hydrolysis is the method of disposition
  • The medical examiner will provide the cause of death

Dr. McGee’s name will still appear in MR&C dropdown lists while he finalizes 2019 deaths that are still under investigation.

Security and fraud prevention important to vital records operations

All who work with vital records are responsible for keeping the data and documents associated with births, deaths, and fetal deaths, safe and secure. Users of Minnesota Registration and Certification (MR&C) sign an agreement to get their login information. When they sign the agreement, they agree to keep MR&C secure and log into MR&C only for their vital records duties.

The Office of Vital Records (OVR) Security and Records Supervisor, Brenda Shinaul, retired on January 7, 2020. In that capacity, Brenda also served as the Security and Fraud Prevention contact and coordinator for Minnesota. Many of OVR’s partners, especially the staff in county vital records offices, worked with Brenda to report fraud, suspicious activity, and other security concerns. OVR plans to assess needs and determine the best way to fill this critical vacancy at OVR.

If you suspect fraud, experience a data breach, or need help with a security matter, please contact the OVR Help Desk at 651-201-5970 and health.vitalrecords@state.mn.us.

County vital records professionals should continue to follow the procedures and processes in place for routine activities listed below:

Ordering Security Paper

After you place an order, OVR receives notices about your order, tracking information, and delivery.

Reporting problems with security paper

OVR documents what you report and follows up with Northstar to assure resolution.

Reconciling Security Paper

County vital records offices must reconcile their security paper on a regular basis. Each sheet of security paper has a unique document control number (DCN). Offices must account for all DCNs by reviewing MR&C-generated reports for missing DCNs. If a DCN is missing, it was not assigned to a request and was not voided. Reconciling can be easy when done frequently. Contact the OVR Help Desk if you have questions about reconciliation, 651-201-5970, or health.vitalrecords@state.mn.us.

Reporting requests for multiple copies of birth certificates

OVR wants county vital records offices to report when they issue four or more copies of a birth certificate for the same subject in a single transaction. It is not against the law to request or issue multiple copies of birth certificates. However, birth certificates are identity documents and generally, the owner gets the certificate back after presenting it. Most people need only one certificate.

If you suspect fraud, receive counterfeit credentials, or have reason to believe that the person making a request for non-public data or documents is not eligible, do not fulfill the request. Follow your office protocol and notify OVR. Staff at the OVR Help Desk will provide guidance and escalate the problem to management if needed. Involve law enforcement when appropriate.

Historical vital records scanning project

Otter Tail County logo

Thanks to Carol Schmaltz, Otter Tail County Recorder for submitting this article.

The Otter Tail County Recorder’s office recently completed the process of scanning and uploading all historical vital records, and land records, into our software system.

We hired US Imaging, Inc. for the vitals and land document project. US Imaging was on site 24/7 until the scanning project was complete. Once scanning was complete, US Imaging took the images to their business, removed extra borders, and enhanced image quality. The quality of the images ended up being significantly better than the original documents.

We completed the project in three stages over approximately nine months. Our Technology Fund financed the project. Our cost was approximately 40 cents per page, based on the number of scanned documents. Otter Tail IT had minimal involvement as Fidlar, our software company, and US Imaging Inc. worked together on the conversion process.

The vital records information is indexed with unique document numbers and only available to the Recorder’s Office staff. We have found that it has increased efficiency in our office by having all documents available electronically; we no longer need to move the heavy books and place them on the copy machine when someone is requesting information. We can access all vital records at our workstations and research and print them quickly. This has reduced the time required for handling, storing, retrieving, and distributing the documents. Most importantly, the documents are safe and secure. Fidlar has copies of the documents at an off-site location, through their Bastion program. Bastion is a hosted infrastructure that is secure and protected off-site even if our office is hacked or a victim of ransomware.

Prior to having the records preserved, I was concerned with document recovery in the event of a fire, flood, tornado, or other uncontrollable situation. In the event of a disaster, we could now be up and running remotely with no down time for recovery. This definitely gives me peace of mind knowing that the historic information is safe, secure and has reliable backup.

Attend the MACO Vitals Session

MACO logo

Connect with other vitals professionals and consider our role in digital identity

County vital records professionals still have time to register for annual training. Join the Office of Vital Records (OVR) at the 2020 MACO Annual Conference. The Vitals Session is Tuesday, February 11, from 8 a.m. -10 a.m., in the Bloomington Room at the DoubleTree by Hilton Bloomington-Minneapolis South 7800 Normandale Boulevard, Minneapolis, 55439. You must register with MACO at 2020 MACO Annual Conference for the full event OR for Tuesday only.

The fast-paced Vitals Session will include:

  1. Welcome from Molly Crawford, State Registrar, Office of Vital Records
  2. Legislative Proposals For Marriage Licensing and Certification: Barbara Olson, Manager and Kirk Pederson, Policy Program Manager, Hennepin County
  3. Vital Records and the U.S. Identity Ecosystem: What’s on the ID and Security Horizon—Panel Presentation: Moderator: Molly Crawford, State Registrar, Office of Vital Records and Panelists:  Julie Hanson, Scott County Property and Customer Service Manager; Barbara Olson, Regional Manager for the Hennepin County Government Center and Ridgedale Service Centers Division; Carol Schmaltz, Otter Tail County Recorder
  4. Vital Records Updates and Training: Presenters: Maria Schaff, Health Educator and Bill Devine, Statewide Systems and Application Support Unit Supervisor, Office of Vital Records

County professionals who attend will get credit for professional development/continuing education that meets statutory requirements for security training. OVR will also exhibit at the conference.

After the fire; serving the community

Thanks to Barbara J Olson, Regional Manager for the Government Center and Ridgedale Service Centers Division in Hennepin County for this article.

The December 25, 2019 fire at the Drake Hotel was devastating to the roughly 250 residents, many of whom lost critical identity documentation such as driver’s licenses, state IDs, birth certificates, and marriage certificates.

In response, Hennepin County Service Centers developed a voucher to cover the cost for replacement of the documents we issue. On January 3 and 4, staff attended a Multi-Agency Resource Center, coordinated by the American Red Cross, to answer questions and offer the vouchers. We are also providing vouchers at our Government Center location.

Through this program, we were able to provide nearly 80 services to former Drake residents, most of which were birth certificates and duplicate licenses. We hope this small gesture will help the impacted residents as they rebuild.

Related stories:

As church shelter closes, Drake Hotel fire survivors move on

A look back on Francis Drake Hotel's history

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Contact the Office of Vital Records