Two studies conducted by the office of Attorney General Mike Cox reveal almost 10 percent of the employees caring for the state's vulnerable adults have criminal backgrounds that include homicide, criminal sexual conduct, weapon charges, and drug offenses.
The findings come three years after Michigan's first law requiring criminal background checks of prospective residential care facility employees went into effect.
AARP of Michigan's Associate State Director of Government Affairs Bill Knox joined Cox in unveiling a new initiative to address the problems raised in the Attorney General's report.
"Many of us have had to face the difficult decision of whether or not to place a loved one in a nursing home," said Cox. "In three years, as the first group of 78 million baby boomers begins to retire, the safety of Michigan's nursing homes should be on all of our minds. When we place our loved ones in these facilities, we expect that our family members will receive the highest standard of care."
"A system that fails to meet those expectations by allowing hundreds of criminals daily contact with residents must be changed and I am committed to changing it," he said.
"AARP has 1.5 million members in Michigan, many of whom are among the state's vulnerable adults living in residential facilities," said Knox. "The Attorney General's report exposes major flaws in Michigan's current laws and we agree they need to be strengthened to provide our members with the protection they deserve."
Cox commissioned the studies to evaluate the effectiveness of Michigan's statutes in response to a disturbing series of cases uncovered by his Health Care Fraud Division. The division, which investigates and prosecutes Medicaid provider fraud and residential care facility abuse and neglect, uncovered that 43% of individuals and 25% of employees charged for crimes against residents in the past three years had past criminal convictions.
The results of the two studies completed in 2005 were equally disturbing. The first reviewed the criminal backgrounds of a statewide sample of Michigan's 40,000 Certified Nurse's Aides (CNAs), the single-largest group of certified workers providing direct care to residents. Of the more than 5,500 CNAs studied, 9% had a total of 836 outstanding criminal warrants and 3%, or 170, had past criminal convictions.
The second study checked the backgrounds of entire employee populations -- from CNAs to administrators -- at four nursing homes in different regions across Michigan. A total of 618 employees were checked and 58, or more than 9%, had 101 outstanding warrants; 68, or 11%, of the staff had past criminal convictions.
In both studies, the criminal histories included homicides, armed robberies, criminal sexual conduct, weapons violations, drug charges, and retail fraud.
"The owners, operators, and employees of Michigan's almost 5,000 residential care facilities are the people we entrust to care for Michigan's most vulnerable citizens," said Cox. "When one out of ten of these employees have serious criminal histories, it is clear that we need to do more to protect Michigan seniors."
Cox has notified each of the State's approximately 5,000 residential care facilities of the report's findings and submitted a comprehensive proposal to the Legislature that would enhance Michigan's criminal background statutes. In addition, the Health Care Fraud Division has requested information from facilities regarding employees with criminal histories.
"It is only through our combined efforts that we can reform the system and effectively achieve the level of protection Michigan's most vulnerable citizens deserve and that we all expect," said Cox.