West Virginia Begins Background Checks for Long-Term Healthcare Workers

West Virginia Begins Background Checks for Long-Term Healthcare Workers
Marketing Director

According to a MetroNews article earlier this month, the State Department of Health and Human Resources announced plans to require criminal background checks with long-term healthcare workers in West Virginia. Under the state’s new program, West Virginia Clearance for Access: Registry and Employment Screening (WV CARES), applicants will have to undergo both state and federal background checks. The program is administered by West Virginia’s Department of Health & Human Resources and the WV State Police Criminal Investigation Bureau (CIB) in consultation with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), the Department of Justice (DOJ), and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

What You Need to Know About WV CARES

West Virginia’s WV CARES program aims to establish efficient, effective, and economical procedures for conducting background checks on all prospective direct patient access employees of long-term care facilities and providers. “This initiative is so important as West Virginia’s long-term care facilities are home to approximately 12,000 residents, and employ roughly 18,000 direct access workers,” said WV Department of Health and Human Resources Cabinet Secretary Karen L. Bowling in a press release.

The program uses a web-based system to provide employers a single portal for checking state and national abuse registries and the state and national sex offender registries. The system also provides employers access to Nurse Aide Registries for all 50 states and professional licensure registries where available. According to West Virginia’s Office of Inspector General, the web-based system offers “an efficient and effective means for an employer to check an applicant’s status prior to paying the cost of a criminal history background check.”

All long-term care facilities and providers licensed by the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources are required to conduct employee background checks, including:

  • Nursing homes & skilled nursing facilities
  • Home health agencies
  • Hospice care
  • Long-term care hospitals
  • Long-term residential care
  • Personal care services
  • Adult daycare services
  • Intermediate care facilities

The background check program will be phased in over the next six months. All providers are expected to use the new screening system by the beginning of 2016. By conducting comprehensive background checks on all prospective direct access employees and retaining the fingerprints for future data comparisons, the program will make it unnecessary for workers to undergo new background checks or fingerprinting when they change long-term care employers in West Virginia.

Background Check Requirements

West Virginia requires two types of background checks for long-term care workers: a registry check and a fingerprint-based criminal background check (State and Federal). Registry check requirements are determined based on state and federal policy and/or legislation. Employers cannot hire an applicant until the applicant has been cleared through the registry check with the WV CARES web-based system.

Employers are also required to request a fingerprint-based background check before hiring an individual. Under the program, applicants can be provisionally employed for up to 60 days while the WV CARES fitness determination is pending. Such provisional employees, however, must be supervised by an employee who has cleared both the criminal background and registry checks.

Shortcomings of West Virginia’s Background Check Program

While West Virginia’s efforts to protect patients and their families should be commended, the background check program is not without its flaws. Background screening experts agree that the FBI fingerprint-based background check is far from perfect. “In reality, the FBI database is far from perfect and should never be regarded as the most reliable source for comprehensive and accurate background screening,” said Melissa Sorenson, Executive Director of the National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS), in a Roll Call editorial.

According to a 2006 U.S. Attorney General’s report, approximately half of the FBI’s records are inaccurate or incomplete, yet most legislation requires the use of this unreliable source. The truth is, there’s no single source for background checks. In order to access the most current and accurate data, healthcare employers should conduct primary source criminal searches. This means going directly to the state and county records. These records could take months or years before making it to a federal database such as the FBI’s fingerprint database. Utilizing the FBI fingerprint background check solely gives employers, patients, and their families a false sense of security. A more comprehensive, current, and accurate background check is necessary to safeguard patients and their families from harm.

Are you currently evaluating your background check policy? Contact us today to learn how PreCheck can help healthcare employers implement comprehensive and effective employment screening programs. 

PreCheck Background Screening Resource Kit