- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 14, 2014

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - Minnesota is poised to begin requiring fingerprint background checks for state workers who care for the elderly, disabled and other vulnerable groups.

Legislation that requires those employees be fingerprinted and photographed is awaiting Gov. Mark Dayton’s signature, according to the Star Tribune (https://strib.mn/RPVDYL ). The legislation, which cleared the House last week and passed the Senate on Monday, would start in October.

The Department of Human Services has conducted criminal background checks on most groups of caregivers since 1991, but the fingerprinting effort is the largest expansion of state screening in more than two decades. Over time, an estimated 150,000 to 200,000 people who work in child-care centers, nursing homes, mental hospitals and other state-licensed programs will be affected.

Last fall, the newspaper reported that licensed nurses in Minnesota can practice for years despite histories of criminal convictions, including drug thefts that put patients at risk of harm.

Charles Samuelson, executive director of the ACLU of Minnesota, called the statewide fingerprinting effort a waste of public money. Somewhat sarcastically, Samuelson questioned why the state was creating its own fingerprint stations rather than relying on local police. “Why don’t we just take them down to the (police) precincts and just book them?” Samuelson said. “They are already well suited to take mug shots and fingerprints.”

But state officials say Minnesota’s current system is severely flawed. DHS now conducts background checks only when caregivers are hired or switch jobs, which means that a serious crime can go undetected as long as a caregiver sticks to one employer. Moreover, the system is prone to error because criminal checks are based on names and dates of birth, which can be forged or changed.

DHS will also begin to cross-check its database of caregivers with the Minnesota Court Information System through a new automated system. As a result, DHS will automatically be notified if a caregiver is convicted of a crime that would under state law disqualify the person from direct contact with vulnerable people.


Information from: Star Tribune, https://www.startribune.com



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