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OH Mental Health Service Not Subject to Public Records Act

The state of Ohio created a mental health services board (Board) which was to contract with and govern private mental health providers to ensure that even indigents and the uninsured could receive mental health services. The Board in Stark County, Ohio hired a private company called Nova for this purpose. A Nova employee was suspended for investigation of sexual misconduct, and a local newspaper requested copies of his employment file. When Nova refused, the paper filed a mandamus action in the state Supreme Court under the Ohio Public Records Act (Act), R.C. 149.43, et seq.

The Court first articulated the 4-part test to determine whether Nova was a public institution which was subject to the Act. The test considered: (1) whether the entity performed a governmental function, (2) the level of government funding, (3) the extent of governmental regulation, and (4) whether the entity was created by the government to avoid the requirements of the Act.

The Court found that Nova’s provision of mental health services for those who couldn’t pay wasn’t enough to satisfy the requirement that the function performed be governmental. It also found that Nova’s operations were independent of government control, and that Nova was not created as the government’s “alter ego.” Thus, Nova wasn’t subject to the Act. See: State ex rel. Repository v. Nova Behavioral Health, Inc., 112 Ohio St.3d 338, 859 N.E.2d 936 (Ohio, 2006).

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Related legal case

State ex rel. Repository v. Nova Behavioral Health, Inc.