A proposal from state Rep. Matt Hall better protecting senior citizens and other potentially vulnerable populations throughout the state has been signed into law by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.
House Bill 4325, now Public Act 28 of 2021, 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.
The plan previously advanced through the House with a 109-1 vote and was approved unanimously in the Senate before reaching the governor’s desk.
“I’m pleased state government was able to come together for the protection of vulnerable people in our state,” said Hall, of Marshall. “The overwhelming support for this legislation and the quick action to sign it into law underscores the importance of this issue. People and their families depend on services provided through local AASA agencies and they depend on those services to be reliable and safe. With standardized background checks and needed uniformity, we are working to ensure elderly people are not put in an environment with potentially dangerous individuals.”
Hall offered the legislation after chairing a House Oversight Committee hearing during the 2019-20 legislative term, which 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 audit found that improved policies for monitoring subcontracted providers, employees and volunteers was needed through statutory changes and clarification.
Following the Auditor General’s report, agencies have adopted an internal policy mirroring Hall’s 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.
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