Governor Urges Lawmakers To Impose IHSS Worker Restrictions
On Friday, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) sent a letter urging state lawmakers to take action to prevent people with certain felony convictions from working as caregivers in California's In-Home Supportive Services program, the Los Angeles Times reports (Halper, Los Angeles Times, 9/25).
In the letter, Schwarzenegger called California's inability to bar people with felony convictions from working for IHSS a "public safety crisis" (United Press International, 9/25).
The letter follows a recent Times investigative report finding that some individuals who have been convicted of crimes such as elder abuse, murder and rape are providing care for elderly and disabled residents through IHSS.
Since background checks were instituted for IHSS employees last year, state officials have identified about 996 people with felony convictions who were working for IHSS or seeking employment in the program. Of those, 786 were declared ineligible or removed from the program.
The remaining 210 IHSS employees or applicants are scheduled to resume or begin providing care even though they have prior felony convictions and have been earmarked by investigators as unsuitable for IHSS work (Los Angeles Times, 9/25).
IHSS Employment Policies
Current program rules bar individuals from working as IHSS caregivers if they have been convicted of certain crimes, including:
- Child abuse;
- Elder abuse; or
- Defrauding public assistance programs.
However, state law does not prevent individuals with other types of felony convictions from working for IHSS. In addition, privacy laws prohibit state officials from informing IHSS beneficiaries about caregivers' felony convictions (AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 9/24).
Governor's Previous Efforts
In his letter, Schwarzenegger noted that his previous attempts to bar people with certain felony convictions from working for IHSS have been unsuccessful (Los Angeles Times, 9/25).
In May, an Alameda County Superior Court judge ruled in favor of advocates representing IHSS workers and issued strict limitations on the criteria for disqualifying caregivers from the program (AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 9/24).
Unions Weigh In
Doug Moore -- executive director of the United Domestic Workers Homecare Providers Union -- expressed skepticism about Schwarzenegger's call to action. Moore said the 210 caregivers with potentially dangerous felony convictions represent a minute percentage of all IHSS caregivers. "That is hardly a crime wave," he said.
However, Bill Lloyd -- president of Service Employees International Union-California -- praised the governor's actions. He said, "Putting vulnerable adults in harm's way ... is unacceptable and we are committed to working with the Legislature and the administration ... to increase their safety, health and wellbeing" (Los Angeles Times, 9/25).
On Friday, Capital Public Radio's "KXJZ News" reported on policies allowing people with felony convictions to work for IHSS (Milne, "KXJZ News," Capital Public Radio, 9/24).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.