Federal Law Requiring National Criminal Background Checks for Nursing Homes Closer to Reality

The Finance Committee of the United States Senate recently passed the Patient Safety and Abuse Prevention Act, which seeks to establish a nationwide system of criminal background checks for nursing home employees.  Criminal background checks would be required to ensure that individuals who apply to work in nursing homes, home health agencies, and other long-term care settings do not have a record of abuse or a criminal history that could pose a risk of harm to the elderly and those with disabilities. 

The Act would specifically require states to coordinate their systems of abuse and neglect registries and would also require facilities to screen applicants against the FBI’s national database of criminal history records.  In a pilot program for the legislation in seven states (Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, Nevada, New Mexico, Alaska and Idaho), thousands of applicants whose backgrounds disqualified them from working in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities were successfully screened from employment.  Click here for more information about this legislation

The current system of background checks in most states does not effectively eliminate the risk that a job applicant with a history of abuse or neglect or other disqualifying "barrier" crimes will be caught during the application process.  For example, in Virginia, a nursing home is required only to check an applicant's criminal history in Virginia.  For crimes and other disqualifying conduct that may have occurred in other states, Virginia requires only that the applicant deny in a statement that disqualifying crimes have occurred.  So, an aide who has been convicted of diverting narcotics or abusing patients outside of Virginia may be hired by a Virginia nursing home that has not checked the applicant's out-of-state criminal record.  If the nursing home was required to check a national database of criminal convictions, the aide would never be hired.  Click here for more information about "barrier crimes" that disqualify job applicants from working at Virginia nursing homes. 

This legislation is critical to prevent sexual predators from committing acts of sexual abuse against the most frail and vulnerable among us, to prevent those with histories of elder neglect and abuse from gaining access to more victims, and to prevent those who use or sell narcotics that were stolen nursing home patients.
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Robert W. Carter, Jr. is a Virginia attorney whose law practice is dedicated to protecting the rights of the victims of nursing home and assisted living neglect and abuse in Richmond, Roanoke, Norfolk, Lynchburg, Danville, Charlottesville, and across Virginia. 

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