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WA Home-Care Workers Try Again for Training, Background Checks

July 12, 2011

OLYMPIA, Wash. - One measure likely to be on the Washington ballot in November looks a lot like another one that voters already approved in 2008. It increases mandatory training hours and requires criminal background checks for home-care workers who work with seniors and people with disabilities. The first initiative passed easily three years ago, but has never been put into effect, for budget reasons, according to the state.

Sandeep Kaushik is a spokesman for the new initiative, called I-1163. He says nursing home workers still receive twice as much training as their home-care counterparts, which puts home-based clients at a disadvantage.

"When we're talking about long-term care workers, who do essentially the same job as nursing home workers but often in a more isolated setting, it really makes no sense. And it's an invitation for problems, to not require that kind of training."

If the Legislature didn't fund and implement the first initiative, I-1029, it stands to reason they might ignore I-1163, as well. But Kaushik says that's unlikely. Since then, reports of abuse and neglect have risen. So, he says, it's important to try again.

"We think this will make a difference, you know. We think the Legislature will take notice a second time and, more importantly, we've built into this initiative the requirement that it does go into effect, starting in January of next year. And the Legislature really won't have a choice about that."

Critics of the first ballot initiative three years ago said the additional training and background checks would raise the costs of home-based care, which are covered by the state for low-income clients. On Friday, the campaign for the new initiative turned in 340,000 signatures, about 100,000 more than necessary to get it onto the November ballot.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - WA