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Beshear Signs Emergency Regulation Making Nat'l Background Checks Mandatory for Nursing Home Workers

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Kentucky Governor's Office / governor.ky.gov
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In his final days in office, Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear has signed an emergency regulation implementing mandatory national background checks on nursing home and long-term care facility employees.

The move, aimed at weeding out prospective workers who have committed serious crimes in other states, will affect around 1,300 providers beginning January 1.

“Protecting the elderly and other individuals residing in these facilities is not only important – it is our duty as state leaders,” Beshear said in a news release. “All too often, these vulnerable citizens become victims of the very individuals who are supposed to be caring for them. This regulation, based upon a federal law allowing these background checks, will ensure we are able to thoroughly track the history of anyone who has committed such an offense, whether it occurred in Kentucky or out of state, and ensure they will not be working at health care facilities in the commonwealth.”

Thanks to federal grants, a voluntary national background check system has been in place since May 2014. Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family services public information officer Beth Fisher says the cabinet has received 2,600 complaints against long-term providers since then.

“A great deal of those complaints are abuse/neglect related, so making this program mandatory for providers will be very, very helpful in terms of identifying anyone that has committed any type of abuse/neglect offense," Fisher said.

The program - the Kentucky Applicant Registry and Employee Screening, known as KARES - recently received a $689,000 grant from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to double the number of fingerprint scanners in the commonwealth.

The KARES program has conducted more than 2,200 background checks since May 2014. Fisher said figures were not immediately available on how many potential employees were screened out due to the program. She said only 7 percent of Kentucky's providers have participated in the voluntary program.

John Null is the host and creator of Left of the Dial. From 2013-2016, he also served as a reporter in the WKMS newsroom.
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