The portal pulls state and federal law enforcement data on health-care job-seekers, adding another layer of protection that identifies prospective workers hiding illegal or abusive acts committed in other states.
Kentucky is seeking to implement more stringent criminal records
searches for those wanting to care for some of the state’s most
vulnerable citizens. Though still in the embryonic stage, the Kentucky
Applicant Registry and Employment Screening program, or KARES, is
another layer of protection aimed at weeding out prospective care
workers hiding illegal or abusive deeds committed in other states.
The new high-tech background check program is a pre-hiring
fingerprint-supported state and FBI Web portal available to long-term
care facilities and employers. The portal was created to support the
Kentucky National Background Check Program, a state effort intended to
help reduce the potential for abuse — including financial exploitation —
of elderly and vulnerable adults.
In August 2013, the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services
(CHFS) Office of Inspector General launched a website for KARES, meant
to supplement screening that providers currently must perform, said Al
Ervin, business analyst for the office of administrative technology at
A pilot venture kicked off last May, with 24 long-term care facilities
across the state sending applicants to 35 fingerprint collection sites.
Kentucky is one of 25 states to receive a $4 million grant from the
Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to fund the program.
“Our goal with the pilot was to keep it to a limited number of participants in a controlled environment,” Ervin said.
The LiveScan electronic fingerprint units, provided by Virginia-based
biometic and identity solution company MorphoTrak, are kept at three
dozen employment training centers. The fingerprint scanning process
takes about 30 minutes, after which applicant data is transmitted to
local police and FBI offices. Results come back within 24 to 72 hours.
Employers eligible for the service include assisted living communities,
home health agencies, hospices and nursing facilities. Under the
program, backed by the Kentucky State Police among others, candidates
seeking long-term care employment will no longer be able to hide
criminal activity committed in other states, noted CHFS Inspector
General Maryellen Mynear.
Workers subject to a background check under KARES have one-on-one
contact with patients, said Mynear. This includes volunteers providing
direct services similar to that of a paid worker.
During the program’s pilot phase, KARES proved it worked. The system
made several ineligible rulings on individuals based on past criminal
history. Among the disqualifying offenses are felonies related to sexual
or violent crimes, as well as criminal abuse that involves a child or
adult. Activity involving theft and embezzlement will also keep wannabe
workers out of long-term care facilities.
“We’re trying to prevent any kind of abuse, exploitation or neglect of
the elderly,” Mynear said.
“There are many ways our patients can be
taken advantage of.”
Before KARES, state law required caregivers to use only name-based
background checks conducted by state police or the Administrative Office
of the Courts. A semblance of change in this procedure came in 2011
with the reinvigoration of a state-sponsored elder abuse prevention task
force, initially created to strengthen support of a care facility
system wracked by stories of neglect and ill treatment of patients. In
2007, the Kentucky Department for Community Based Services received
45,048 reports of adult abuse, 9,660 of which were for persons ages 60
and older, according to CHFS.
Discussions about adding a comprehensive fingerprint-based vetting
system began in 2011 when the state Office of Inspector General (OIG)
applied for grant funding. It took several years of development to
integrate KARES into state employment centers. Ervin reports that the
technology has been well received by participants since the pilot
launched in spring 2014.
“It’s a simple, user-friendly platform to work with,” he said. “There
have been no problems using the system or with the hiring of
That’s not to say there aren’t issues to smooth out before a
statewide rollout of the KARES program takes place. For example, three
dozen fingerprinting locations are not nearly enough for the state’s 120
counties, according to officials. Filling those gaps will likely mean
buying more equipment or sharing resources across agencies. In addition,
the OIG will have to address accessibility issues for scanning stations
located in counties with geographical impediments like mountains that
make them harder to reach.
Meanwhile, Kentucky lawmakers are considering a bill that would make the
multi-state background check a mandatory program for long-term care
settings. Proceedings on the bill, which the OIG will present to the
Kentucky General Assembly this year, are expected to delay wider
implementation of KARES until at least mid-2015, Ervin said.
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Fingerprint-Supported Web Portal Helps Kentucky Protect Vulnerable Citizens