FRANKFORT — A Senate Judiciary committee approved a bill Thursday that would create an adult protection registry.
Senate Bill 98, sponsored by Sen. Sara Beth Gregory, R-Monticello, would allow individuals, their families and care providers to see whether the Cabinet for Health and Family Services has substantiated allegations of abuse involving a prospective employee.
The bill would require agencies that provide caretakers for vulnerable adults to ask whether potential employees, contractors and volunteers were on the registry.
In order for someone to be placed on the registry, the cabinet would have to determine through a preponderance of evidence that a caretaker had been abusive. The caretaker would have to be given an opportunity for an administrative hearing and exhausted all appeals.
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Under the state's current system, Gregory said, there's no way for loved ones to know about previous allegations.
On Thursday, several people spoke in favor of the bill, including Sherry Sanders who told lawmakers that she was beaten every day by a caretaker at a Kentucky institution.
"She hit me with her fists. Sometimes I fought back. Then, she beat me more. And I saw other people get hurt, too," Sanders said of her former caretaker. "She finally got fired. But she did not go to jail. Instead, she went to work for another agency in town."
Loretta Rogers of Berea told the Herald-Leader she has been advocating for the creation of a registry because her daughter Lesley Reising, who has developmental disabilities, was abused by a caretaker last year.
Rogers said her daughter was held against her will in a hot garage and threatened by a former caretaker. A criminal and social-service investigation is pending, she said.
"The reason that we need an adult protection registry is simple; we must protect people with disabilities," she said.
Shannon McCracken, who runs an agency that provides caretakers for people with disabilities, said that despite the diligence of providers to employ good staff there is a significant gap in Kentucky's system that places thousands of vulnerable adults in jeopardy.
McCracken said she once terminated an employee who "hit and pushed" a disabled man to the ground, and then ripped his shirt and cut his face because the disabled person had cursed at him.
She said the Cabinet substantiated the abuse, but she later discovered the person she had fired was working for a similar agency.
Lawmakers on the committee said Kentucky's prosecutors should investigate more of the cases.
The committee voted 9-0 in favor of the bill.