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Senate considers bill to create standard training, abuse tracking for Indiana disability caregivers

The Indiana Statehouse entrance with a blue sky in the background.
Lauren Chapman
IPB News
The Senate Health and Provider Services Committee is poised to nix the proposed registry in favor of expanding an existing incident reporting system.

Indiana representatives unanimously voted to pass House Bill 1342 last month to create a registry to track direct support professionals who help care for people with disabilities in their homes. That can include direct family members of those receiving care, who are often paid by the state for that work. But the Senate is set to make some changes to the bill.

The bill House lawmakers passed would require all direct support professionals (DSPs), including those only caring for their own family members, to be registered with the state. The state would use that registry to track substantiated allegations of abuse.

The Arc of Indiana is a disability support organization that works with providers that hire DSPs. Public affairs director Hannah Carlock testified the bill is an important step toward protecting people who receive care.

“A constituent that had an issue where a [direct service provider] was reported and that DSP moved on to a different provider,” Carlock said. “And when that constituent changed providers, they ran into that same DSP again. So we want to have the best quality DSPs to take care of our loved ones.”

The state’s nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency estimated the personnel needed to create and maintain this registry could cost the state as much as $93,000.

The Senate Health and Provider Services Committee is poised to nix the proposed registry in favor of expanding an existing incident reporting system.

The bill’s author, Rep. Julie Olthoff, a Republican from Crown Point, suggested the change during a hearing Tuesday based on a discussion with officials at Indiana’s Division of Disability and Rehabilitative Services. The office would have been responsible for creating the registry in the House version of the bill.

“That means the provider can just go on the [Bureau of Developmental Disabilities Services] incident system, and find out if there was an incident report against a DSP,” Olthoff said. “This new approach is cheaper, faster, has a longer shelf life, and it's so much better."

Join the conversation and sign up for the Indiana Two-Way. Text "Indiana" to 73224. Your comments and questions in response to our weekly text help us find the answers you need on statewide issues throughout the legislative session. And follow along with our bill tracker.

Olthoff did not file the amendment in time for the full committee to be able to consider it Tuesday, so they postponed a vote on the bill. Indiana Public Broadcasting requested a copy of the proposed amendment from a spokesperson for Olthoff, but they declined to provide it in time for publication.

The House-passed version of the bill would also create a standard training curriculum and tiered certification for these providers.

“According to [the Legislative Services Agency] there are about 38,000 home health care and personal care aides in Indiana with an hourly rate of $12.46,” Olthoff said. “The training is meant to raise the profession and provide a career path with the hopes of keeping people happier and longer in their profession.”

Some senators questioned the necessity of that training given the low wages many DSPs earn, especially for family members.

“I think uniformity in training is important. But I also think we need to be really careful that this should be very narrowly drawn, that we don't create barriers to entry,” said Sen. Liz Brown, a Republican Fort Wayne. “Just because they didn't take the training doesn't mean they don't know how to help someone bathe, get dressed, go to the grocery store or cook a meal for them.”

Carlock, with the Arc of Indiana, argues it is critical for all DSPs, including family members, to get some level of training.

“Yes, I'm sure that they know how to bathe and help dress but dealing with those behaviors, we want to make sure that families and the individual are as safe as possible,” she said. “And so if an individual has a behavior, and they might have to use the restraint technique on them to calm them down, we want to make sure that they're doing that properly and safely.”

The state already requires training for all direct service providers, the bill would ensure that training is uniform across the state.

Adam is our labor and employment reporter. Contact him at arayes@wvpe.org or follow him on Twitter at @arayesIPB.
Copyright 2023 IPB News.

Adam Yahya Rayes

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