Bill would address background for workers

June 14, 2010
| By Pete Daly |
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The Michigan Senate has unanimously approved legislation aimed at streamlining the background check process for employees of adult care facilities, with the measure now going to the House.

“Nursing homes, adult foster care facilities, and mental health facilities care for a population of residents that are vulnerable,” said Sen. Patty Birkholz, R-Saugatuck Township, one of the sponsors of the proposal. “The Legislature has previously approved legislation requiring individuals who have contact with patients to undergo background checks. These new measures will improve the hiring process for employees of adult care facilities.”

Birkholz said the focus of the measures is to provide portability of background checks, within a 12-month period, from one facility. As the law is currently written, qualified individuals who have been properly screened must submit several different background checks if they work at different sites at the same time.

Senate Bills 1253 through 1255 clarify requirements for the background check process pertaining to employees of nursing homes, adult foster care facilities, and psychiatric or intermediate care facilities for those with mental retardation.

“The intent of the background checks was to ensure that the individuals providing care to the patients were not violent and not likely to abuse the patients,” Birkholz said. “The current background checks process fails to address the staffing needs of these facilities as many of them employ part-time staff or employees work at multiple facilities. This new legislation will help reduce the redundant background checks, but still keep patient safety a top priority.”

In 1987, two female employees of the Alpine Manor Nursing Home in Walker suffocated five elderly female patients over several months, while working the night shift. A Grand Rapids public relations agency executive, speaking on behalf of Alpine Manor, was quoted in a New York Times article as saying that both of the women eventually convicted of the murders “had very good reviews. Both were well-liked by the patients.''

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