State Begins Comprehensive System of Criminal Background Checks on Nursing Home Employees
West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources Cabinet Secretary Karen L. Bowling today announced a new background screening program for long-term care workers in West Virginia, called West Virginia Clearance for Access: Registry and Employment Screening (WV CARES). The program requires applicants for jobs with access to residents or beneficiaries of long-term care services to undergo fingerprint-based state and national criminal history checks.
Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, who has sought safeguards to protect the health and welfare of vulnerable populations, signed legislation creating the program on April 2, 2015. The legislation passed both houses of the West Virginia legislature unanimously and had the backing of the West Virginia Health Care Association and the West Virginia State Police.
“This initiative is so important as West Virginia’s long-term care facilities are home to approximately 12,000 residents, and employ roughly 18,000 direct access workers,” Bowling explained. “The new program will reduce the potential for abuse, neglect and exploitation of the elderly and other vulnerable adults by ensuring that individuals with certain criminal histories will not become direct access workers in long-term care in the Mountain State. We appreciate Gov. Tomblin’s leadership and support of this essential initiative.”
The new checks are required of all prospective direct access personnel who apply for positions in the following provider types: skilled nursing facilities; nursing facilities; home health agencies; providers of hospice care, long-term care hospitals, personal care services, adult day care; and residential care providers that arrange for or directly provide long-term care services, including assisted living facilities, and intermediate care facilities for individuals with intellectual disabilities.
The program will be phased in over a six-month period beginning in August. All providers will be using the new screening system by the beginning of 2016. By conducting comprehensive background checks on all prospective direct access employees and retaining the fingerprints for future data comparisons, the program will make it unnecessary for workers to undergo new background checks or fingerprinting when they change long-term care employers in West Virginia.
West Virginia is one of 25 states and territories that received a grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) for the National Background Check Program (NBCP). The NBCP, which was created under Section 6201 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, assists states to strengthen their background check requirements for long-term care workers and creates more efficient processes for conducting the screenings. Among other uses, federal grant funds are paying the program's administrative fee for providers in the first year of operations, thus giving providers a no-cost introduction to the new program.
DHHRCommunications@wv.gov or 304-558-7899