$800K designated for health care background checks goes untouched for years

Local News

The state Department of Health got the green light to spend nearly $800,000 four years ago, but the money hasn’t been touched yet.

A viewer told us about it using the Report It feature on our website.

So we asked questions and learned the funds were approved in 2012 to pay for improvements to background checks for health care workers. We also found out if it’s not used by the end of this year, the state will have to return the money.

So what’s stopping the state from using it, and what type of background checks are being done now?

The state says it does plan to use it by the end of the year, but it will likely give some of that money back.

The state says health care workers are required to go through background checks right now. Employers are able to go through court records to see if a person applying for a job has been convicted of a crime in Hawaii — but that’s as far as they can go.

The health department is looking at a system that can take fingerprints from applicants and check criminal records anywhere in the country.

“That information will be sent to the Criminal Justice Data office here in Honolulu to determine if I have any state convictions, it would also be sent to the FBI to see if I have any federal convictions,” said Keith Ridley, public health program manager with the state Department of Health.

Ridley says the health department has committed nearly $500,000 to put the system in place. KHON2 asked why it took so long and he says getting approvals and finding the right vendors took years.

“Then you go through the contracting process, and then finding the development. These things unfortunately take longer than we’d like them to, but it’s the process that we go through,” he said.

That still leaves the state with nearly $300,000 more to spend. Ridley says that was originally going to be used for a web portal to store the data, but he found out that they can use one free of charge.

The state Department of Health says it’s still trying to figure out how to spend that $300,000, but if not, they will likely have to give that money back.

As for the improved background check system, KHON2 has learned that it could also check other registries that were not available to the public before, such as Adult Protective Services and Child Protective Services. This allows the employer to see if the applicant has any record of abusing someone. It will also let the employer know if the worker has committed a crime after he or she has been hired.

Ridley says the program should be in place by the end of the year.

It’s usually the applicant or the employer who pays for these background checks. Ridley says it will not cost more, even after the improvements.

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