Medical marijuana: CO health department application outsourcing not to private company

Colorado's health department has been trying to catch up on its tremendous backlog of medical marijuana applications amid persistent rumors that it's been doing so with the help of a private company, thereby violating patient confidentiality. Turns out that's not true, although there's a logical reason why it seems that way.

According to Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment spokesman Mark Salley, the CDPHE hired extra staff to process applications. Such help was necessary because delays exceeded eight months in some cases -- and that's not taking into account those aps set aside as a result of recommendations from doctors with conditions or restrictions on their license. Nearly 2,000 applications were rejected due to this policy change, although about 1,300 were temporarily reinstated after protests from patients, doctors and advocates.

In addition, Salley confirms, Pueblo's Integrated Documents Solutions "has been helping us with data processing and working on change of address stuff." And that's where the confusion comes in. Fort Lauderdale, Florida's Integrated Documents Solutions is indeed a private company. But the Integrated Documents Solution in question is actually a branch of Colorado's Department of Personnel & Administration. Here's a brief history:

In July 2005, the Integrated Document Factory (IDS) and Document Solutions Group (DSG) were combined into one unit known as Integrated Document Solutions (IDS).

IDS is a unit of the Division of Central Services (DCS) under the Colorado Department of Personnel & Administration (DPA). DCS was established by state statute to provide economical support services to state agencies.

As such, Salley says, "everything is being done within the confines of patient confidentiality as described in the original amendment" -- Amendment 20, which legalized medical marijuana in Colorado.

Thanks to IDS and the new CDPHE staffers, Salley believes the backlog of applications will finally be eliminated by year's end. This goal was made achievable by a slowdown in the application rate. As Joel Warner reported last week in the post "Medical marijuana deluge: Colorado MMJ patients top 113,000, bring in $9 mil in fees," Colorado's MMJ patient total skyrocketed from about 65,000 in April 2010 to 105,000 just three months later. Now, four months after that, only 8,000 additional people have applied for a card."

In the new year, Salley is confident the health department will be able to process applications within a 35-day period. And that'd be good news for everyone.

More from our Marijuana archive: "Medical marijuana card update: Four months later, William Breathes can finally breathe easy."

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts