Bill Requiring Training for Home Care Workers Advances

SEIU backs a consensus bill from the Senate Workforce Committee to set up federally funded training for its 35,000 home care workers registered with the Home Care Commission who help seniors on Medicaid stay in their homes.

The Oregon Senate unanimously voted Monday to strengthen standards for home care workers, passing a bill designed to protect many of the state’s most vulnerable seniors and developmentally disabled people who receive their care through Medicaid.

Senate Bill 1534 now heads to the House of Representatives.

Sen. Kathleen Taylor, D-Milwaukie, said that SB 1534 orders the Department of Human Services to establish minimum training requirements for home care workers -- who serve seniors -- and personal support workers -- who serve people with disabilities.

“It is imperative that we all have the same level of knowledge and be recognized as part of the healthcare team,” said Nannette Carter-Jafri, a certified nursing assistant who works as a SEIU-organized home care worker in Portland. “The ability to have a standard of training that is available to all of us would increase our professionalism.”

The Oregon Health Care Association has complained for years that the employees of its private in-home care agencies are held to higher standards than the home care workers, organized by SEIU, who are available for hire through the Oregon Home Care Commission.

But SEIU itself led the efforts to get in new place new training requirements for its workers, a push that became increasingly important after a Secretary of State audit found that the Department of Human Services could not ensure homecare workers are prepared to provide the care and assistance that a client needs, and that workers are not trained in those areas.

“It’s been very clear for the past several years that home care workers nt only need but want increased professionalism at work,” said Kyndall Mason, a policy strategist at SEIU Local 503.

Mason testified earlier this month at the Senate Workforce Committee that the setting of new training standards could get off the ground at no additional cost to the state. Mason told The Lund Report that DHS can increase federal dollars its receives if the training becomes mandatory and there are other federal dollars the state can leverage that have so far been left on the table.

The training requirements will cover medication management and the ability to assist the client with basic activities of daily living such as bathing, dressing, eating and using the toilet. At the request of DHS, the law doesn’t take full effect until January 2020.

“Oregon should strengthen and align our long-term care workforce around a common mission of meeting the growing need for these services,” said Phil Bentley, a lobbyist for the Oregon Health Care Association, which represents long-term care companies.

AARP also supported the legislation to strengthen the existing system and allow Oregon to continue to rely on home-based care to assist people as they age:

“Homecare workers often provide a much needed respite for family caregivers,” said AARP lobbyist Jon Bartholomew. “In 2016, AARP coordinated a family caregiver respite work group that visited 17 communities in Oregon to get input on how to improve access to and use of respite in Oregon. We found that in many communities, there is a shortage of quality homecare workers – not always a shortage of homecare workers -- but a shortage of quality ones.”

Reach Chris Gray at [email protected].

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