I attended the Department of Human Services’ PCA Provider Focus Group on August 12, 2005 to listen, learn, and discuss the law and policy changes to the PCA Services in the State of Minnesota . Part of the meeting focused on the Human Services Background Studies Law effective July 1, 2005 (mentioned above and some organizations learned of this law after July 1, 2005). I would like to inform you about this law and how this law will affect our PCA Choice organization.
A representative of the DHS Licensing Division was present and pointed out to the consumers, providers, and other interested parties that this was not a DHS or Licensing initiative, our Legislators drafted and passed this law. She detailed the law as such: Any new PCA or existing PCA (switching from another provider – with or without a consumer) cannot have unsupervised direct contact with a client until they have cleared the background study. Only an individual with a cleared background check can provide the supervision (a parent, family member, or responsible party can not supervise the PCA).
The representative also informed those attending that the law provides the DHS Licensing Division access to all Minnesota county court databases and the DHS Licensing Division will be conducting daily searches of county databases against all pending and cleared background study participants. This will allow DHS to identify when an individual in their background study database commits an offense considered a violation of the background clearance. If this happens, the DHS Licensing Division will notify the PCA organization immediately to have that person removed from providing direct care. The law also mandates the DHS Licensing Division to complete all background studies within three days. Currently, the DHS NetStudy (online background study) is completing background studies in approximately 4.8 days. Background studies requested via mail are taking from two weeks up to two months due to the division currently experiencing a backlog.
To address this new law, PCA Provider agencies received access to the NetStudy requiring all new or switching PCAs to providing agencies with their vital information upon the consumer hiring them, in order to begin the background study process. We are estimating at least a five-day waiting period for the background clearance via NetStudy During this wait time, the PCA cannot provide direct contact PCA services to the consumer unless supervised by another background cleared PCA. The PCA can begin providing direct care (without supervision) the day the agencies receive the background clearance. We all understand this may be an inconvenience to the PCAs and the consumers, however provider agencies have to follow the law.
The PCA Choice law allows consumers to be the supervisor/manager of their PCAs, however, this new background law takes that right away when a consumer hires a new PCA. It is understood and agreed that the law is important for the protecting the most vulnerable people in our communities. However, by not allowing the parent or consumer to be the supervisor for a PCA without a cleared background study, it is taking away the empowerment provided to the parent and consumer from the PCA Choice law.
It also has the potential to create time gaps in PCA service. Consumers and others have raised questions regarding emergency need for a PCA. An example given by a consumer may be a situation such as a PCA suddenly quitting or becoming ill and their back-up PCA not able to work. With this law they cannot have a new PCA start until after the background clearance. So what are they supposed to do during this time? Who is going to help them cook, bath, clean, get out of bed for the 3 to 5 days while the PCA’s background is being cleared?
With this in mind, I would like to see the DHS Licensing Division look at streamlining the background study process. DHS informed those present at the meeting that the PCA provider number will travel with the PCA from one organization to another, however, the background study will not. Every organization a PCA is employed with must get a background study clearance for that individual PCA. The DHS background study costs each organization $20. This process is costly and time consuming for the DHS Licensing Division and provider organizations. It also produces increased workloads and backlogs in the processing of the background studies.
In light of the DHS checking daily with the county databases, we would like to propose that the DHS Licensing Division and the Legislature examine the idea of allowing the background study to travel with the PCA Provider Number for 12 to 18 months from organization to organization. As long as there is not a match from the county databases, every 12 to 18 months a new background study is completed to update the system. This would allow cost savings to both the DHS and Direct Care organizations, lessen the workload and backlog for the DHS, and decrease consumer concerns regarding time gaps in PCA services due to the background studies.