Kentucky's Cabinet for Health and Family Services will use a $3 million federal grant to purchase the electronic equipment necessary to conduct background checks
on nursing home workers, the Courier-Journal reports.
While state law does require direct care staff to undergo a criminal background screening
, the current system is outdated, and there's no requirement for employees' illegal activity to be checked after they are hired. The new system can electronically monitor workers during employment, and replaces the named-based checks with more advanced technology such as a fingerprint scan. "The Commonwealth of Kentucky is very pleased to participate in this critical initiative that is designed to help long-term care facilities and providers avoid hiring individuals with certain criminal histories by conducting federal and state level background checks on prospective job applicants," Governor Steve Beshear tells WLEX-TV. "This falls directly in line with our ongoing work to address elder abuse and improve patient care in long-term care facilities." Prospective workers applying for positions at personal care homes, assisted living centers, Alzheimer's facilities, home health agencies and residential centers for adults with mental disabilities will all be required by law to subject themselves to checks. The screenings will be administered by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The Courier-Journal adds that once the new system is in place, state police will cross-reference the information with a statewide check for criminal convictions, while the FBI will conduct a national check. The susceptibility of elderly patients to crime and theft at long-term care facilities begets the need for such strict standards. Last week in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, a care assistant at a facility called Magnolia's allegedly pinched, hit and kicked a 93-year old dementia patient. The employee, Paula Hawks, had pled guilty to harrassment in the past for harassment and served a week in jail for her crime. According to the Herald-Leader, a similar bill to conduct checks on all employees - including those without direct access to patients, such as custodians and food service workers - failed this year in the General Assembly. However, a multi-year review ordered by Beshear and conducted by the CHFS resulted in the revival of the state's Elder Abuse Committee, a collaboration between agencies and stakeholders aimed at protecting Kentucky's senior citizens, notes WLEX-TV. Kentucky currently has 590 long-term care facilities, 101 assisted living facilities and approximately 600 other providers that employ direct patient access workers.