In bipartisan fashion, the state House today overwhelmingly approved a proposal from state Rep. Matt Hall to better protect Michigan senior citizens and other potentially vulnerable populations.
House Bill 4325 requires local branches of the state’s Aging and Adult Services Agency (AASA) to conduct criminal background checks on employees, volunteers and independent service providers. Potential employees and volunteers with certain criminal convictions would also be disqualified from working directly with elder adults and having access to their personal information under the plan.
Hall, of Marshall, created the reforms after leading a House Oversight Committee hearing during the 2019-20 legislative term that looked at an AASA performance audit from October 2019. The examination done by the Office of the Auditor General looked at a period from October 2016 to June 2018 and evaluated the effectiveness of the agency’s efforts to monitor local agencies that provided services to older adults in Michigan.
“The Auditor General’s report found the need for enhanced procedures for how people are hired or how volunteers are brought on at these local agencies,” Hall said. “Without standardized checks, there was no way of knowing if a potentially dangerous individual was being placed into an environment with vulnerable people.
“We are acting on that report legislatively to shore this up. This plan ensures there is uniformity in how background checks are conducted going forward – and it’s going to protect people and give their families additional peace of mind by knowing their care is of the utmost priority.”
Following the report, agencies have since adopted an internal policy mirroring the legislation, beginning mandatory background checks on Oct. 1, 2020. Under Hall’s plan, each local agency must maintain documentation of all criminal background checks – including the date of the of the most recent check – for all paid and volunteer staff. The contents of the background checks are to remain confidential.
An employee or volunteer would be disqualified from working directly with older adults if they have been convicted of crimes such as murder, manslaughter, kidnapping, arson, assault, battery or domestic violence – as well as financial, sexual conduct, abuse and neglect or firearm offenses. The plan establishes a five-year disqualification for misdemeanor convictions and a 10-year disqualification for felonies.
HB 4325 now moves to the Senate for further consideration.
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