The Patient Safety and Abuse Prevention Act (PSAPA) was drafted to prevent people with criminal backgrounds from working in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities. This would be achieved through a comprehensive national system of criminal background checks.
The legislation would be a continuation of a pilot program that has proven to be successful, according to a 2008 report. That pilot program, which was authorized in the 2003 Medicare Modernization Act, has stopped at least 7,000 applicants from getting jobs in long-term facilities. The elderly and people with disabilities will be kept safe from those applicants, who had either a history of abuse or a violence-related criminal record.
Under PSAPA, states would coordinate their systems and check job applicants against neglect and abuse registries. They would also conduct a police check at the state level. Additionally, applicants would be screened against the FBI’s national criminal records database.
Currently, under state-based background checks, nursing homes and similar facilities hire thousands of people annually who have criminal records or substantiated histories of abuse. These people are given access to defenseless seniors because of the haphazard state-based systems, which allow predators to slip through the cracks of the hiring system. Consequently, they steal from and abuse the elderly, who often suffer in silence.
A hearing before the Senate Aging Committee in 2002 focused on abuse in nursing homes and highlighted PSAPA as part of the solution. When the Medicare Modernization Act became law, it included the PSAPA pilot program.
The 7 states that participated in the pilot program were:
- New Mexico; and
The final version of this bill, the Elder Justice Act/Patient Safety and Abuse Prevention Act was signed into federal law by President Obama on March 23, 2010.
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