Beginning this October, the state Department of Human Services (DHS) will require all newly hired employees who care for vulnerable populations, including the elderly and disabled, will be fingerprinted and photographed before they start work.
The legislation cleared the House and Senate this month and awaits the Governors signature.
DHS has conducted background checks on caregivers since 1991, but this new effort is the largest of its kind in regulatory history.
It is estimated that 150,000 to 200,000 individuals who work in child-care centers, nursing homes, mental hospitals, and other state-licensed programs will undergo the heightened scrutiny.
Civil liberties advocates criticize the reform, who say that the legislation essentially treats caregivers like arrested criminals. However, state officials claim the state’s current system of background checks is flawed and in need of more stringent reform.
Currently, DHS conducts background checks on when caregivers are hired or switch jobs. Theoretically if a caregiver sticks with one employer, if he or she has committed a crime, DHS would not know. This reform intends to close this loophole.
In addition, the current system only uses an individual’s name and date of birth, which can of course be forged or changed.
The state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension estimates that DHS fails to detect roughly 2,500 criminal records a year, which is around 1 percent of the agency’s 250,000 annual background checks.
Officials say the new system will be able to determine within hours if a person working with vulnerable populations has any criminal convictions.
The system will be paid for with a $3 million grant from the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. At least 18 states have a similar system in place.
Source: Minneapolis Star Tribune.
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