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Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Requests

Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Requests 

The District of Columbia Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), DC Official Code §§ 2-531-539, provides that any person has the right to request access to records.  All public bodies of the District government are required to disclose public records, except for those records, or portions of records, that are protected from disclosure by the exemptions found at DC Official Code § 2-534.
A FOIA request may be made for any public record.  This does not mean, however, that the public body will disclose every record sought.  Statutory exemptions authorize the withholding of certain public records.  When the public body does withhold records or portions of records, it must specify which exemption of the FOIA permits the withholding.  FOIA does not require agencies to do research, to analyze data, to answer written questions, or to create records in order to respond to a request.  FOIA only requires the agency to make a reasonable effort to locate already existing records.
How to Make a Request
The FOIA Officer processes all requests to the Department of Health for information under the Freedom of Information Act.  A FOIA request may be oral or in writing and it may be mailed, hand delivered, couriered, faxed or emailed.  Email submission is preferred.  The FOIA Officer can request that an oral request be submitted in writing to help ensure an accurate and complete response.  Submit your FOIA request to the FOIA Officer specified at the end of this webpage.  
A FOIA request should describe the record(s) you are seeking as clearly and precisely as possible. In your description, please be as specific as possible with regard to names, dates, places, events, subjects, and other pertinent details that will help the Department of Health to identify the records.  If your request is vague or too broad, the FOIA Officer may ask you to be more specific which could extend the time required to process the request.
Response Time
The Department of Health is required to respond to a FOIA request within 15 business days (Saturdays, Sundays and legal public holidays are not counted) beginning on the date the request is received by the FOIA Officer.  The FOIA Officer may extend the time for a response by an additional 10 business days (Saturdays, Sundays and legal public holidays are not counted) for unusual circumstances, as defined by DC Official Code § 2-532 (d).

Fees and Waiver of Fees
There is no fee to submit a FOIA request.  However, you may be charged fees for searching, reviewing, and reproducing records.  The Department of Health may charge the following fees:  (1) Searching for records:  $16.00 to $40.00 per hour based on the pay grade of the personnel who perform the search and with the first hour free, (2) Charges for initial review of documents:  $16.00 to $40.00 per hour based on the pay grade of the personnel who perform the review and with the first hour free, (3) Photocopies:  $0.25 per page, (4) $1.00 per document to certify a document as true copy of an agency record, and (5) the direct cost of any service or material for which no fee has been established.  Please be aware that you may have to pay search and/or review fees even if the search does not locate any responsive records or if records are located but are withheld as exempt.  See DC Official Code § 2-532 and 1 DCMR § 408.
You may include in your request a specific statement limiting the amount of fees you are willing to pay.  You can reduce possible FOIA fees by carefully tailoring your FOIA request.  
You may request a waiver or reduction of fees in your request.  You must include a statement describing how the requested records will be used to benefit the general public.  
If you previously failed to pay FOIA fees in a timely manner or if the FOIA fees will exceed $250, the Department of Health may require advance payment.  See DC Official Code § 2-532(b-3).

Appeals or Judicial Review of Denials

You may file an administrative appeal or seek judicial review if you are dissatisfied with the Department of Health’s response to your request.  
Government Resource Center
For more information on how to file a FOIA request and how to file an appeal, please visit the Government Resource Center
FOIA Officer for the Department of Health 
Phillip Husband
Department of Health
899 North Capitol Street, NE, 5th Floor
Washington, DC 20002
Phone: (202) 442-5984
Facsimile: (202) 442-4797