Policy could improve background checks process
A change in State Police policy could streamline the state background check system, making it easier for some agencies to obtain results from the federal government.
Mark Drennan, executive director of the West Virginia Behavioral Health Care Providers Association, said the State Police last month expanded a policy to allow organizations providing services for children, the elderly and disabled individuals to directly receive results of FBI background checks.
Organizations must apply and be approved before they can receive those results, but Drennan said the new policy would bring an end to the cumbersome and potentially dangerous background check process currently in place.
Previously, the state's background check contractor MorphoTrust can only run background checks through the State Police system. If an employer requires a federal background check, the company must print an extra copy of the prospective employee's fingerprints, which the employer must then submit to the FBI with a signed release from the employee.
The employer is not allowed to receive the results of that background test, however. Even with the signed release, state law forbids employers from receiving results of a potential employee's background check. They must be mailed to the job seeker, who would then provide the results to their prospective employer.
Drennan said that posed a potential security risk, because individuals could tamper with the results.
Under the newly revised policy, Drennan said MorphoTrust can submit fingerprints directly to the FBI. The contractor also would receive the results of the background check, which would then be provided to the requesting agency.
"We're excited about it. It does exactly what we wanted it to do. It works well for our population, because there's not another process or mechanism," he said.
He said the State Police is not inundated with applications from organizations wanting to receive the special status. The application process is expected to take four to six weeks.
Drennan and Scott Boileau, executive director of the Alliance for Children, Inc., previously were working with state lawmakers to draft a bill that would streamline the state's background check system. Both men say that legislation is not necessary now.
"It'll cause better information that goes back to the individual entities that are making decisions about foster parents or volunteers and employees, and it will speed up the process," Boileau said. "I'm encouraged."
Drennan and Boileau spoke at a January meeting of the Legislature's Select Committee on PEIA, Seniors and Long Term Care, detailing problems their member organizations were having with the state background check system and its contractor, MorphoTrust.
Boileau said MorphoTrust also is steadily improving its services in the state.
Before the January meeting, Drennan said the contractor did not have enough locations in West Virginia to accommodate all areas of the state, and employers sometimes had to wait three or four months before receiving results of background checks for potential employees.
Parents wanting to adopt or foster children experienced similar delays.
Businesses were billed multiple times for the same background checks while others received statements meant for other businesses. MorphoTrust also did not cash checks on a regular basis, causing bookkeeping headaches.
Officials from the company immediately set to work fixing those problems.
By the end of January, MorphoTrust had increased its locations in West Virginia from 12 to 15. As of last week, the company had 17 locations in the state, with plans for two new locations in the next month or so.
The company also has overhauled its management and customer service.
"We have every reason to believe they'll continue to make those improvements," Boileau said.
Charles Carroll, senior vice president of MorphoTrust, said the company is determined to get its West Virginia operation in top shape. He said the company also would like to have about 25 locations in side the state.
"All said and done we will double the number of enrollment centers," he said.
The state hired MorphoTrust, previously known as L-1 Enrollment Services, in August 2011. Before that, the State Police processed all background checks.
Carroll said when MorphoTrust bought out L-1 Enrollment services and learned the contractor was having troubles in its West Virginia operations, it deployed a "rapid response team."
The company has had between 20 to 30 employees working in the state since December, fixing software issues and retraining personnel, he said.
Carrol said MorphoTrust now wants to establish a card scanning center in West Virginia, which would provide a quicker turnaround time for state background checks when clients' fingerprints must be taken using the ink-and-paper method.
"That would give us a two day advantage if it's inside the state," he said.
Fingerprint cards must now be shipped to Nashville, Tenn.
"It doesn't matter to me how big or small the state is, we gave our word this thing would operate right," he said. "We have big customers. I have New York, Texas, a number of very big states. We've never had any difficulties with them."