As of Jan. 1, Kentucky will require assisted living communities and certain other senior living providers to obtain national criminal background checks on new employees and others who will provide direct, one-on-one care to elderly residents as a condition of obtaining or renewing the facility’s license to operate in the state.

Gov. Steve Beshear signed the emergency regulation Nov. 20. It is expected to affect a total of about 1,300 assisted living communities, intermediate care facilities, ICFs for individuals with intellectual disabilities, adult day healthcare programs, nursing homes, home health agencies, hospices, personal services agencies, providers of home and community-based services, personal care homes; and staffing agencies, including nursing pools that have contracts to provide staff to one or more of the aforementioned employer types.

“Protecting the elderly and other individuals residing in these facilities is not only important — it is our duty as state leaders,” Beshear said. “All too often, these vulnerable citizens become victims of the very individuals who are supposed to be caring for them. This regulation, based upon a federal law allowing these background checks, will ensure we are able to thoroughly track the history of anyone who has committed such an offense, whether it occurred in Kentucky or out of state, and ensure they will not be working at healthcare facilities in the commonwealth.”

Current Kentucky law requires only name-based, state-specific background checks, creating a loophole that allowed applicants seeking direct care employment even if they had committed criminal actions in other states. The new law requires fingerprint-supported background checks that search both state and federal FBI criminal records.

The state has offered its Kentucky Applicant Registry and Employment Screening background check program, also known as KARES, on a voluntary basis since May 2014 after a federal grant in 2011. That programs uses 35 fingerprint scanners and is adding 35 more, thanks to a federal grant. Since its launch, more than 2,200 background checks have been conducted, screening out applicants who had been convicted of serious violent offenses in other states but had no criminal history in Kentucky.