West Virginia Adds New Criminal Background Check Program for Caregivers of the Elderly

By Michael Klazema on 8/13/2015
According to a recent announcement from the West Virginia Health and Human Services Department, the state will soon begin implementing a new criminal background check program meant to protect the elderly and other vulnerable adults from dishonest and unsavory caregivers. The program will be called the West Virginia Clearance for Access: Registry and Employment Screening, or WV CARES.

Since taking office as West Virginia's Governor in November of 2011, Earl Ray Tomblin has made the protection and welfare of the elderly, the mentally handicapped, and other vulnerable populations a major focus of his administration. Earlier this year, Governor Tomblin affixed his signature to the WV CARES legislation, which, according to a report from the Bluefield Daily Telegraph, a local West Virginia publication, will be slowly "phased in" over the course of a six-month period.

Under the WV CARES system, applicants seeking to work with vulnerable adults through long-term care services or facilities will be required to undergo fingerprint-based criminal checks at both state and FBI database levels. Under the legislation, a number of different services are considered as "long-term care facilities," including nursing homes, home health caregiving companies, and hospice home care services. The goal is to cut down on the amount of neglect, abuse, theft, fraud, embezzlement, and exploitation of seniors and other vulnerable adults.

It's not difficult to see why the WV CARES legislation passed both the State Senate and House of Representatives with unanimous approval. Headlines about vulnerable adults being abused or exploited are all too common. Seniors especially often become the target of thieves and embezzlers, who will devise different methods of emptying savings accounts, forging checks, and stealing social security payments. While many long-term caregivers are honest, compassionate, and caring, there is no denying that professionals in these jobs are in the perfect position to take advantage of their patients in a covert fashion. In-depth criminal background checks will hopefully help long-term care facilities spot red flags and disqualify applicants with sinister ulterior motives.

Laws mandating background checks for the caregivers of vulnerable groups, not just seniors and other vulnerable adults, but also child daycare providers, are becoming more and more common nationwide. Still, such requirements are still not observed nationwide, despite the fact that professions closely related to long-term, healthcare, education, etc., demand background checks almost across the board. As such, West Virginia's new program for running background checks on all long-term care providers is a big victory in the fight for senior safety. Hopefully, the next few years will see laws like this becoming the standard from coast to coast.


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