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Kentucky Direct-Care Workers Must Pass National Background Check

December 10, 2015

Direct-care workers applying for jobs in Kentucky must submit to national criminal background checks beginning January 1.

The new requirement will apply to any incoming employee who provides direct one-on-one care to elders and people with disabilities in a variety of settings, including nursing homes, home health and personal services agencies, adult day care programs, and assisted living facilities, among many others.

In one of his last acts in office, Gov. Steve Beshear (D) mandated the background checks as part of an emergency regulation, which he signed on November 20.

The administration of Gov. Matt Bevin (R), who took office December 8, has not commented on whether he will enforce the regulation, the Louisville Courier-Journal reported.

Expanding KARES

The regulation effectively expands the Kentucky Applicant Registry and Employee Screening (KARES) background screening system, the state-specific version of the National Background Check Program, which uses fingerprints to check the out-of-state criminal records of prospective long-term care workers.

Funded by a grant from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services in 2011, KARES was previously offered to Kentucky long-term care providers on a voluntary basis and was not widely available throughout the state.

Beginning in 2016, however, Kentucky’s 1,300 providers will need to conduct new-hire screenings using KARES or risk losing their operating license.

A FAQ page on the KARES website lists the types of offenses that would disqualify an applicant from employment, including numerous felony offenses as well as misdemeanors related to abuse or sexual misconduct.

Job applicants who have criminal records detected by KARES have the option of appealing, either on the basis of accuracy or rehabilitation. In the latter case, a third-party panel evaluates the applicant’s character to determine whether to dismiss their criminal record, the KARES FAQ says.

— by Matthew Ozga

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