Kentucky Governor Signs Emergency Legislation to Ramp up Background Checks in Nursing Homes

By Michael Klazema on 11/24/2015

On December 8th, Matt Bevin will succeed incumbent Steve Beshear as the Governor of Kentucky. Before his eight years in office come to a close, though,Beshear is shaking things up and making a few last-minute changes. One of those changes comes in the form of an emergency regulation that will require all nursing homes and other elder care facilities throughout the state to conduct nationwide, multi-jurisdictional background checks. The emergency action has been signed by Beshear and will take effect on January 1st.

Several nursing care agencies and action groups in the state, including the Kentucky Initiative for Quality Nursing Home Standards, have reportedly been pushing for a law like this for years. It isn't difficult to see why. In May, Newsweek released a study that compared nursing home standards from different states. Kentucky ranked in the bottom tier, with 40% of its elder care facilities receiving only one or two stars (out of five) on the Federal ranking and rating system. Neglect, abuse, exploitation, and other issues are sadly common in Kentucky nursing facilities.

Beshear's new emergency regulation could help to improve Kentucky's Federal rankings. By requiring FBI criminal checks and fingerprinting for all employees at elder care facilities throughout the state, the law will greatly strengthen the screening process for those entrusted with the care of vulnerable adults. Currently, nursing homes and other care providers in Kentucky are only required to run name-based state criminal checks. As a result, individuals with criminal records in other states are able to come to Kentucky and slip through the cracks.

According to a press release from Beshear's office about the new law, "more than 2,600 total complaints have been lodged against long-term care providers" in the past year and a half. Almost a third of those, the press release continues, "were directly related to suspected abuse or exploitation of residents." Even if not all of the abusers have prior records, more in-depth background checks will help to engender a system of greater security and accountability in Kentucky's elder care industry.

The change from name-based state criminal checks to fingerprint-based FBI criminal history checks will be a substantial adjustment for Kentucky's elderly care facilities. The law will apply to approximately 1,300 care providers throughout the state, including nursing homes, assisted living facilities, hospice care providers, home health agencies, and other similar businesses that provide long-term care to the elderly or other vulnerable adults.

As a last political maneuver, the signing of this law is a pretty good way for Governor Beshear to leave office. While some care agencies might react negatively to legislation that requires them to add extra employee screenings or risk losing their state licensing, families with elderly loved ones will rest easier knowing that care facilities are taking extra steps to ensure patient safety and welfare.


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