Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Background Screening Update

Tuesday was an interesting day at the Capitol. It started early with a meeting of the House Criminal and Civil Justice Policy Council, which began at 8 a.m. We arrived bright and early at 7 a.m. in ancipation of giving public testimony on the proposed legislation that modifies background screening laws for a multitude of different entities.

For facilities and licensees regulated by the Agency for Health Care Administration, the bill, PCB 10-04, will require Level 2, fingerprint screenings for all employees who provide personal care or services directly to residents, have access to resident living areas or a resident's funds or personal property, and for all contractors who provide personal care or services directly to residents. All fingerprinting must be done electronically, and all employees who have worked longer than five years will have to have the electronic Level 2 screening. The cost of such a screening is $24 for the state check plus $19.25 for the electronic Level 2. Then, there will be a "vendor" charge for the company that actually rolls the prints and submits them to FDLE.

There's lots of details that have yet to be worked out, so your FHCA staff and lobbyists continue to work diligently with legislators and staff on these details. Since this was the first and perhaps only time public comments were being allowed, I stepped up and provided two comments for consideration: the availability of vendors to provide the screening - are they accessible by public transportation, which many of our caregivers use as their mode of transportation to get to work? Another important point of consideration is the cost of implementing such a system on July 1, 2010, which gives providers little time to detemine how to do the screening, and no system to reimburse the employer.

Joe Langford, president of Edge Information Management and an associate member of FHCA and FHC Service Corp member, also testified during the meeting to ask consideration of third parties to be allowed to act as an agent on behalf of the employer. It is important that the final bill doesn't negatively impact Florida businesses.

You might remember this issue began when several TV and newspaper outlets in south Florida did an investigative series that found employees with criminal records working with vulnerable persons. As a result, the Legislature has picked this up and is running with it. FHCA is in support of background screening legislation, since resident safety is our first priority.

So what happens next? The bill needs to be printed and assigned a number, and it will move onto its next committee of reference. We'll continue to keep you posted on this issue, so be sure to follow us here for more information.

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