Long-term care worker law effective 2010

Implementing Initiative 1029, the long-term care workers training law, will be at least a yearlong process involving two state agencies, according to a spokesman for the labor union that campaigned for the measure.

The work ahead for the state's Department of Health and Department of Social and Health Services involves developing a training curriculum and exam, establishing disciplinary standards and procedures and spelling out how workers will be fingerprinted and where those will be kept.

How much of that work actually will get done in the coming year remains to be seen though. Gov. Chris Gregoire's budget released last week includes funding only for the initiative's background checks, not its training.

Gregoire's is one of three proposed budgets, along with those from the Senate and House of Representatives. The final state spending plan probably will include parts of all three.

Initiative 1029 was approved by the state voters with a 72.93-percent "yes" vote in the Nov. 4 general election.

In Clallam County, I-1029 was approved with a 73.52-percent "yes" vote. In the 31 precincts of Clallam County Commissioner District 2, the measure received 10,367 "yes" votes and 3,573 "no" votes, or 74.3 percent.

The measure changes state law effective Jan. 1, 2010, to require long-term care workers for the elderly and disabled and 13 other categories of caregivers to get 75 hours of basic training within 120 days of being hired.

Those workers also would need a certification exam administered by the state and an FBI background check that includes checking sex offender databases.

I-1029 applies to home care agencies, adult family homes, disabled children services and individuals who are family members but want to be compensated by the state.

Hospitals and nursing homes are exempt from the law because their employees already must pass much stricter training requirements because of federal Medicaid regulations.

Adam Glickman, spokesman for Service Employees International Union Local 775, said the Department of Health will be responsible for developing certification standards and procedures.

The certification means long-term care workers will come under the department of health's "Uniform Disciplinary Act," he said.

They will become subject to the same kind of reporting and discipline procedures as nurses, doctors, pharmacists and other health care providers.

So for example, if a long-term care worker is caught stealing from a client, the person isn't just fired. He or she can have the ability to work as a long-term care worker in the state suspended or revoked.

DOH also will develop forms, procedures and examinations to certify that someone is a licensed long-term care worker.

The process for the required fingerprinting of long-term care workers and how those will be checked against the FBI fingerprint database and sex offender registries also must be spelled out by 2010.

The state Department of Social and Health Services will be responsible for developing a curriculum and training for long-term care workers, advocates and consumers, Glickman said.

According to the legislation, that training will include basic training, continuing education, peer mentorship and advanced training.

Basic training can include such topics as communication skills, maintaining dignity, body mechanics, fall prevention, skin and body care, roles and boundaries and food preparation and handling.

Long Term Care Program ombudsman Louise Ryan said much of the work already has been done by the past caregivers training group that worked on potential legislation.

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