Making progress toward Strategic Goal 4: Strengthen the public’s trust and confidence in the Department of Health and Welfare
Protecting the health, safety, and independence of Idaho’s most vulnerable populations is a crucial task entrusted to Department of Health and Welfare (DHW) staff. The department’s background check is required for people who work in more than 40 programs that provide direct care for participants who are children, disabled, or elderly. These programs include nursing homes, long-term care facilities, day care facilities, foster care homes, potential adoptive families, residential care facilities for children and adults, Emergency Medical Services, and more.
And as Idaho’s population continues to grow, the criminal background check system has come under increasing pressure. From Feb. 1, 2021, to Feb. 1, 2022, a team of about 15 staff in the department’s Criminal History Unit (CHU) completed more than 31,000 applicant background checks for Idahoans applying to work with children and vulnerable adults.
With ever-increasing demands on the aging, paper-based background check system, DHW staff are now working to improve the system and make sure that thorough, accurate checks can be completed more quickly.
In addition to Idaho’s population growth, the current employment situation has increased the urgency of making improvements to the background check system. Many employers in Idaho are struggling to hire staff. By making sure background checks are accurate and timely, DHW is helping employers deliver high quality care to their clients by making sure they have an adequate pool of qualified staff to serve their needs.
Criminal History Background Check System Modernization
The Criminal History Unit (CHU) currently uses an aging online system that customers use to apply for background checks. DHW staff use the same system for screening customers. The goals of CHU modernization are to provide a better customer experience, better automation for staff, and an improved system support for everyone who used it.
Traditionally, background checks, on average, take 20 to 25 days to complete, depending on various factors. CHU conducted a process improvement project in 2021, with the aim of improving the timeliness of checks without sacrificing quality.
In August, the DHW team and partners met to take a thorough look at how criminal history checks are conducted. The team investigated whether there are processes that can be improved now and will also be compatible with a new system when it is implemented.
In 2021, CHU successfully applied to Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) for federal grant funding. The funding is being used to cover the cost of project management and process improvement activities. It is also being used for custom development for a new federally sourced system that will be available in early 2023.
The background check system replacement project will move the department to a cloud-hosted system. The new system will improve the experience for employers, and for customers applying for background checks. An online payment system is one of the improvements that will likely be possible in the new system. The new system will also automate many of the processes used by CHU to screen applicants, which will also speed things up.
We are confident this improved system will help applicants and their employers by reducing the amount of time it takes to receive a clearance, and by improving the customer experience for those applying for a background check. Meanwhile, Idaho’s increasing population will be better served by a workforce that has been thoroughly vetted through the department’s criminal history background check process.
You can read more about the DHW Strategic Plan on our website.
I hope you have a safe and healthy weekend.
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