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at-risk adults
(AP Photo/Al Behrman, File)
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Colorado DHS pushes background checks for those working with at-risk adults

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The Colorado Department of Human Services is pushing for background checks on those who work directly with at-risk adults.

Called the At-Risk Adult Protection Act, House Bill 1284 would require employers to check the state Adult Protective Services database for past offenses by job candidates who want to work with at-risk adults.

Under current law, remarkably there is no way for an employer to see if a job candidate has had a substantiated case of abuse, neglect or exploitation.

“This bill is about keeping vulnerable people safe,” said DHS executive director Reggie Bicha. “Without background checks, someone who has been fired for mistreating an adult in one facility could end up getting hired at a facility down the street. By requiring employers to do these background checks, we can prevent repeat offenses.

“Background checks are already required for employees at facilities that serve children. Adults who are at-risk — for example, people with Alzheimer’s or a traumatic brain injury or an intellectual or developmental disability — need the same protection.”

Last year, Adult Protective Services logged 17,743 reports of neglect, abuse or exploitation against at-risk adults.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Susan Lontine, D-Denver, gets its first hearing April 13 in the House, Insurance and Environment Committee.

“Protecting Colorado’s most vulnerable citizens is the focus of HB17-1284,” Lontine said in a text. “… This is long overdue and I’m thrilled to move this forward for our at-risk adults.”

Eleven states — Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, Tennessee and  Washington — require certain employers to check the registry before hiring someone who would have access to vulnerable patients, residents or clients.

At least 20 states maintain some type registry of Adult Protective Services’ investigations, according to DHS.

Colorado passed a mandatory reporting law for at-risk adult cases in 2014, which caused a 60 percent statewide increase in reports.

Current law, however, does not include background checks, which DHS says would go a long way to “weed out bad actors” reduce  mistreatment.

The Colorado law would apply to facilities licensed by the state, adult day care facilities, community integrated health care service agencies, community-centered boards and program-approved service agencies, Area Agencies on Aging and their providers, Veterans Community Living Centers, facilities operated by the Department of Human Services for persons with mental illness and facilities operated by the Department of Human Services for persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

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