The U.S. Senate has budgeted $160 million over three years for a proposed nationwide system of criminal background checks for long-term-care workers. The funding would become available if Congress passes the Patient Safety and Abuse Prevention Act.

Currently, 41 states require criminal background checks of some kind before employment in a long-term-care facility. The bill is designed to bring uniformity to that process. The bill would expand a pilot program that created a background check system to screen job applicants at long-term-care facilities in seven states. The new nationwide system would combine the FBI’s national database of criminal history records with abuse-and-neglect registries and law enforcement records from each state. If the bill passes, all long term care facilities would be required to conduct background checks of all prospective employees before hiring them for jobs having direct contact with patients.

Jeanelle R. Lust