Bill Would Provide State Funding for Background Checks for In-Home Nursing Caregivers
Assembly member John Benoit (R-Riverside) has introduced a bill (AB 472) that would allocate state funding to counties to verify the criminal background of in-home care providers, the Sacramento Bee reports.
The state already requires background screening for nursing home, public school and child day care center employees. The level of screening varies by county.
The state in 1973 created the In-Home Supportive Services to encourage more disabled and elderly residents to receive care in their homes instead of nursing homes. Under the program, the state pays about 265,000 people enrolled in the voluntary IHSS payroll registry to provide in-home health care services for about 380,000 people. The program, which cost $1.4 billion in 1998, allows disabled and elderly residents to hire family members, friends and neighbors.
The bill would provide counties funding to check criminal backgrounds of workers who have enrolled in the job-referral registry. The bill would not mandate that counties perform such checks, nor would it apply to relatives of patients who provide in-home personal care services.
Benoit has said he would like to extend criminal background checks to patients' family members. Screening all in-home care providers, including family members, would cost $8.5 million, according to the Bee.
Benoit said, "I'm hoping we can get this through for the benefit of the few who might be protected by it. To those who argue it's an invasion of privacy, I would argue it's taxpayers' money. If you want to take the money, you comply with the requirements."
Joan Lee, state legislative liaison for the Gray Panthers, said, "We have a responsibility to provide the maximum protection for these people who are most at risk because of their situation"
According to the Bee, union leaders representing professional home care workers "generally support" background checks if the state funds the $32 fee for the screening.
Protection and Advocacy legislative advocate Deborah Doctor suggested that the state employ more strict enforcement and raise wages to widen the pool of qualified workers as alternative reforms. Doctor said, "If we were to rely on criminal background checks solely, I think that would give people a false sense of security. It's not quite as simple as if we do this, people will be safe. Regrettably, that's shown to be the case in the facilities where people have been checked and abuse is all too frequent" (Stern, Sacramento Bee, 2/28).