Certain health care facilities specializing in long-term care in Connecticut will be required to register with a statewide background check portal beginning February 8, 2016.

The portal will allow employers to process criminal history and patient abuse background searches for potential employees, contractors, or volunteers who will have direct patient access.

Covered facilities include any facility, agency, or provider that is:

  • a nursing home, as defined in Connecticut General Statutes section 19a-521,
  • a residential care home, as defined in section 19a-521,
  • a home health agency, as defined in section 19a-490,
  • an assisted living services agency, as defined in section 19a-490,
  • an intermediate care facility for individuals with intellectual disabilities, as defined in 42 U.S.C. 1396d(d),
  • a chronic disease hospital, as defined in section 19a-550, or
  • an agency providing hospice care licensed to provide such care by the Department of Public Health or certified to provide such care pursuant to 42 U.S.C. 1395x.

The State Department of Public Health (“DPH”), which administers the program, has established the web portal, Applicant Background Check Management System (“ABCMS”), to assist in obtaining background checks.

Covered facilities must register with ABCMS and use the system to process these background checks. Background checks through ABCMS are not required for individuals who are employed, contracting, or volunteering before February 8, 2016.

As part of this process, a Fingerprint Authorization Form will be generated automatically within the ABCMS. Only designated State Police facilities may perform this required fingerprinting.

The ABCMS has certain automatic disqualifiers when considering a criminal conviction record. Covered facilities may run their own background checks (which, for potential employees are typically done post-offer) in addition to the ABCMS check. By doing so, they can minimize the risk of negligent hiring claims in the event an applicant is convicted of a crime not considered an automatic disqualifier by the ABCMS.

As with any hiring decision involving a criminal conviction, a covered facility typically should undertake an individualized assessment before denying employment. If a third-party consumer reporting agency is used to conduct the background check report, the covered facility also would have to provide a copy of the report, a federal summary of rights at the pre-adverse action stage, and an adverse action notice when making a final decision to deny employment.

As obtaining results of a fingerprint-based record search may take longer than the anticipated start date of the applicant, contractor, or volunteer, the statute allows individuals to begin positions under a conditional, 60-day introductory period, subject to several requirements. Covered facilities should consider carefully the risk of having an individual begin employment, working under a contract, or volunteering before full results are received on their background.

Connecticut’s new requirement stems from the Affordable Care Act of 2010. The ACA included a framework for a nationwide program to conduct background checks on all prospective employees who would have direct patient access at long-term care facilities. As a result, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (“CMS”), in consultation with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Department of Justice, administer the National Background Check Program to protect residents and client populations of long-term care facilities.

To date, CMS has provided more than $60 million in grants to states, including Connecticut, to design a background check program for direct patient access employees. The Connecticut legislation, effective January 1, 2012, authorized the state Department of Public Health to create and implement the background check program. ABCMS is the result.

The Department of Public Health offers further information, including answers to frequently asked questions and information about the portal and forms for use in background checks.