Long-Term Caregiver Training Initiative Passes

Washington state voters on Nov. 8 passed Initiative 1163, which would raise the required basic training for most new long-term care workers from 34 hours to 75 hours, by a 2-to-1 margin.

A multi-year battle over the training and certification of long-term care workers in Washington state reached another milestone Nov. 8 as Washington State voters for the second time passed an initiative to raise the required basic training for most new long-term care workers from 34 hours to 75 hours. Initiative 1163 also would raise annual continuing education hours, require new care workers to undergo FBI criminal background checks, and create a certification system that would allow caregivers to be disciplined by the state Department of Health.

Opponents said the initiative would create an unfunded mandate because its backers hadn't identified any sure source of funding for it. Proponents –- the Service Employees International Union took the lead –- said the state's current training standard for long-term caregivers, 34 hours, is less than half of what is required to do the same job in a nursing home.

Seattle Times reporter Andrew Garber reported Oct. 22 that the union spent four years and more than $2.6 million attempting to increase the basic training hours. It tried an initiative in 2008 that voters approved, but state legislators delayed it, citing the state's budget crisis. With 2.1 million members, SEIU is the largest U.S. health care union, and it represents tens of thousands of home care workers. About 500,000 home care workers are unionized in the United States, according to the union.

The September 2011 issue of the monthly newsletter published by the Washington State Residential Care Council of Adult Nursing Homes, which opposed the initiative, reported that an AARP scorecard ranked Washington second nationally, behind only Minnesota, in the quality of long-term care the state provides. The AARP study examined 25 quality indicators in affordability, access, choice of setting and provider, quality of life and quality of care, and support for family caregivers.

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