RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — The Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services (DBHDS) plans to launch an internal investigation into whether or not the personal information of Individual and Family Support Program (IFSP) applicants was exposed Tuesday, the first day people could submit an application.
The IFSP Program provides support and resources to individuals and families with developmental disabilities. The funding program gives financial assistance to those individuals and families, who typically are on a waiting list for services through one of the state’s developmental disabilities waivers.
Several complaints were sent to 8News claiming that users could access other people’s personal information while trying to apply. A DBHDS spokesperson told 8News they “are very concerned that these problems led to the exposure of some of the applicants’ information.”
The IFSP Program Funding Portal has been offline for hours as the “technical issues” are being addressed.
A Chesterfield mother said she applied Tuesday so the state money could help her pay for communication devices and therapy for her twins, 5-year-olds named Jaxson and Xavier, who have autism and are non-verbal.
“This is very important information for my kids, for myself. I was just thinking about all of the families who were waiting just like I was at 9 a.m. to get access potentially to this funding,” said Ebony Cunningham. “And now you have to worry about is my information out there, who has access to my information, my kids’ information, I mean it’s scary. It’s terrifying.”
Cunningham told 8News after she hit submit on the application, she was sent an ID number in an email. When she put the number in the online funding portal, another person’s personal information came up. The information that was made available included Social Security numbers and home addresses.
“But I hope they figure out something because the breach of information is a real problem, and especially when you think you’re going into a secure site and you think all of your information is going to be kept confidential and now it’s just out in the open,” Cunningham continued. “It’s terrifying and I’m worried for myself and my kids and everybody else whose information is out there.”
Following reports of a potential breach within the program’s online portal, a spokesperson for Gov. Ralph Northam said the governor is expecting “a thorough review.”
“The governor shares the concerns of those potentially impacted by this situation — he has made it clear he expects a thorough review.”
DBHDS acknowledged concerns that were shared and assured they are working towards a solution in a message to applicants:
As you know, we are experiencing issues with the IFSP-Funding Portal and are working diligently to address the issues. We have taken the site down temporarily to address the issues and will notify IFSP Families via this listserv when we are certain that the site is working properly. If you have contacted us about these issues, thank you for contacting us and we are aware of the problem. There is no need to contact Senior Navigator or another source since we are working on a solution here at DBHDS.
A message will be sent to families on the IFSP listserve with more information later today.
Thank you for your patience as we work to bring the site back up.
Thank you, The IFSP Staff
DBHDS alerts individuals of the program’s “first-come, first-served” method on its site.
“Remember, the IFSP Funding Program provides assistance on a first-come, first-served basis. Early applications are encouraged,” the IFSP Program’s website states.
The full statement from DBHDS can be read below:
DBHDS is experiencing issues with the Individual and Family Support Program (IFSP) Funding Portal and is working diligently to address the issues. We are very concerned that these problems led to the exposure of some of the applicants’ information. The site has been temporarily taken down to address the technical issues and DBHDS is determining the extent of the problem. DBHDS has contacted IFSP Families to let them know the site is down and will send additional messages when we are certain the site is working properly. We will contact applicants whose information may have been exposed as soon as possible to discuss next steps. We plan to begin an internal investigation to determine how this happened.MARIA REPPAS, SPOKESWOMAN FOR DEPT. OF BEHAVIORAL HEALTH AND DEVELOPMENTAL SERVICES
The application process is scheduled to close by 5 p.m. on October 11, 2019.