Georgia bill would require tougher long-term care worker background checks

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SB 406 is based on a recommendation contained in an 82-page annual report issued to Gov. Nathan Deal on Wednesday by the Georgia Council on Criminal Justice Reform.
SB 406 is based on a recommendation contained in an 82-page annual report issued to Gov. Nathan Deal on Wednesday by the Georgia Council on Criminal Justice Reform.

More thorough background checks would be required of all Georgia assisted living community owners, workers with direct access to residents and applicants for jobs with duties that would put them in direct contact with residents under a bill now being considered by the state senate.

SB 406 is based on a recommendation contained in an 82-page annual report issued to Gov. Nathan Deal on Wednesday by the Georgia Council on Criminal Justice Reform, which says changes are needed “to strengthen protections for residents.” The bill has been referred to the state senate's Public Safety Committee.

“In 2017, the council learned that there are approximately 25,000 employees in more than 10 different facility categories that provide care for the elderly and are subject only to the name-based background check,” the report said. The 15-member council includes a state Supreme Court justice, judges, a district attorney, legislators, criminal defense attorneys, public defenders, other legal professionals and a sheriff.

The legislation, if passed, would align Georgia's requirements with those of many surrounding states, according to the report. It also would apply to personal care homes, private home care providers, home health agencies, hospices, nursing homes, skilled nursing facilities and adult day care providers.

Currently, the council said, the state uses a name-based query system to review long-term care applicants to see whether they have been convicted of crimes in the state. Under SB 406, employers would be required to submit fingerprints to the FBI database in addition to searching state and national databases of criminal records and searching the nurse aide registry (as applicable), the state sexual offender registry and other registries.

Facilities would not be permitted to employ anyone against whom there is a substantiated finding of neglect, abuse or misappropriation of property or whose license is not in good standing (if applicable to the job that he or she would hold).

The new procedures would apply to caregivers, housekeepers, maintenance workers, dietitians, volunteers who have duties similar to those of employees, and others, according to a draft of the bill.

The law, if passed as written, would become effective Oct. 1, 2019.

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