nursing homes

Washington State’s I-1163: Stricter Standards for Senior Care

As November 8 elections approach, Washington State voters are facing an important question. “In the midst of a state and federal budget crisis, can we afford more rigorous qualifications and testing for our caregivers?” The initiative, I-1163, proposes to spend extra millions to ensure that seniors and others in need of long-term care are receiving proper and sufficient treatment, but some argue that the measure is far too costly and unnecessary. They feel that since the Legislature has to find $2 billion in budget cuts, there may be better financial decisions out there than the proposed initiative.

Washington State currently requires that all long-term caregivers undergo criminal background checks and 34 hours of training in most cases. I-1163 says this isn’t nearly enough to guarantee the safety of our elderly and disabled: it would make the necessary training a minimum of 75 hours, and would make background testing more thorough. The initiative would apply to paid long-term care workers in most situations–excluding some types of care, such as that provided by registered nurses–in nursing homes, assisted living facilities, adult boarding homes, and patients’ homes. It should be noted that family members who are providing care for a family member in need will not be subject to the same requirements, and that the standards will only be applied to new workers. Existing caregivers will not need to retrain.

The initiative was formed by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), who proposed a similar initiative, I-1029, in 2008. It passed by a wide margin, but has been delayed in being enacted due to budget cuts. If this new initiative passes, a two-thirds majority in the House and Senate would be necessary to delay implementation. A survey in August showed that 77% of state voters supported the measure, even though it will cost the state about $32 million over the next two years. Opponents point out that there is no proposed source of revenue for this increase in spending–no taxation is written into the initiative.

“Candidly, that’s why the Legislature and I have delayed it,” said Governor Christine Gregoire. “Not because we don’t support the policy, we just don’t have the financial wherewithal to pay for it right now. We’ve had to prioritize.”

Ballots for the election will be mailed out next week, and must be postmarked by November 8 to be counted.

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Lucy is a recent graduate of Western Washington University, majoring in English with an emphasis in Creative Writing. Lucy tagged this post with: , , , , Read 7 articles by
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