Senate Bill No. 260

Introduced By _______________________________________________________________________________

A Bill for an Act entitled: "An Act creating a program within the department of commerce for licensing of home companions; providing the powers and duties of the department; prohibiting the use of names or initials indicating licensure unless licensed by the department; providing a penalty; providing requirements for licensure; providing for fees commensurate with costs of the licensing program; and providing effective dates."

WHEREAS, the number of elderly persons in Montana will increase dramatically in the next several decades because of the attractiveness of Montana as a place to retire and because of the aging of the "baby boomers"; and

WHEREAS, Montana does not yet have the range of facilities, amenities, personnel, and living options that other states have that are necessary not only to provide elderly persons or persons with disabilities with a good quality of life but that are necessary to control health care costs and Montana's Medicaid budget; and

WHEREAS, many elderly persons or persons with disabilities would be able to continue to live at home or live more easily in a home-like setting without resort to a long-term care facility if those elderly persons or persons with disabilities had available to them honest, dependable persons trained in personal care who could be hired to provide assistance with cleaning, cooking, transportation, bathing, and laundry and also provide companionship; and

WHEREAS, the creation of a licensing program to ensure that persons who provide that assistance and companionship are sufficiently skilled and screened would be of great benefit to elderly persons or persons with disabilities who want to remain in their own homes or who want a measure of increased confidence that a person hired to assist them with activities of daily living possesses the expected skills and character.


A statement of intent is required for this bill because [sections 3 and 5] require the department of commerce to adopt rules.

It is the intent of the legislature that a primary component of the licensure of home companions be the background checks required by [section 5]. To this end, the department should put as much if not more emphasis upon the background checks and other methods of proving honesty and trustworthiness as it does upon required skills, training, or experience of home companions.

The rules must also consider the fact that licensed home companions will work in unsupervised situations, requiring good judgment and recognition of those subject or skill areas in which the home companion is untrained.

Be it enacted by the Legislature of the State of Montana:

NEW SECTION. Section 1.  Definitions. As used in [sections 1 through 10], the following definitions apply:

(1) "Client" means the person employing a licensed home companion.

(2) "Department" means the department of commerce provided for in 2-15-1801.

(3) "Licensed home companion" means a person licensed by the department pursuant to the provisions of [sections 1 through 10].

NEW SECTION. Section 2.  Findings and purpose. The legislature finds that many elderly persons or persons with disabilities may be able to live by themselves in their own homes, or in a homelike setting, if a trustworthy and competent companion is available to assist those elderly persons or persons with disabilities with routine functions of daily living that do not require the level of care available in a long-term care facility. Many of these elderly persons or persons with disabilities do not have younger friends to assist them with these functions and do not need to hire skilled nursing care. The legislature finds that those elderly persons or persons with disabilities need assurance that a person whom they would employ to be an assistant and a companion is both trained and sufficiently trustworthy to be left in a client's home, to drive a client's automobile, or to make deposits to or withdrawals from a client's bank account. The legislature finds that the creation of a program for licensing of home companions will fill a niche for elderly persons or persons with disabilities between those persons getting along poorly by themselves and moving to a long-term care facility or personal care residence. To this end, the legislature intends to create an efficient, low-cost licensing program that will be run directly by the department without the use of a licensing board.

NEW SECTION. Section 3.  Duties of department -- rules. The department shall:

(1) administer a program pursuant to [sections 1 through 10] for the licensing of home companions;

(2) determine and pay costs of the licensing program provided for in [sections 1 through 10] in a manner similar to the assessment of costs pursuant to 37-1-101(6) for a licensing program administered by a professional or occupational licensing board;

(3) exercise those powers and duties provided for in Title 37, chapter 1, parts 1 and 3, for the purposes of [sections 1 through 10]; and

(4) adopt rules necessary to implement [sections 1 through 10].

NEW SECTION. Section 4. Unlawful to indicate licensure without valid certificate -- misdemeanor penalty. A person using the abbreviations "L.H.C.", the designation "licensed home companion", or other words or initials or a sign, card, or device indicating licensure pursuant to [sections 1 through 10] without possessing a valid license issued by the department pursuant to [sections 1 through 10] is guilty of a misdemeanor and on conviction may be fined not more than $500 or imprisoned in a county jail for not more than 90 days, or both.

NEW SECTION. Section 5.  Requirements for licensure. The department shall adopt by rule reasonable requirements for licensure of licensed home companions. The rules must provide for background investigations and other methods of proving fitness of character and must specify those disabilities or categories of clients with needs that are beyond the skill level of a licensed home companion and therefore are not to be provided the services of a licensed home companion. For these purposes, the department shall provide that the provision of services by a licensed home companion to persons whose needs are beyond the skills of a licensed home companion constitutes unprofessional conduct for which a licensed home companion is subject to license revocation. The rules may provide for different levels of licensure dependent upon the needs of the client. The rules must also require skills, training, or experience appropriate to the level of the licensure in the subjects of:

(1) needs and care of elderly persons or persons with disabilities;

(2) first aid and personal emergency management; and

(3) other subjects determined appropriate by the department.

NEW SECTION. Section 6.  Bond required. A person successfully passing a department examination for licensure pursuant to [sections 1 through 10] shall, before being licensed by the department, file with the department a bond for the term of the license from an insurer acceptable to the department in the amount of $2,000. The bond must run to the state of Montana and be conditioned upon the payment of any damages, fees, or costs arising from the person's service as a licensed home companion. In the event of violation of the terms of the bond, the department shall collect the principal amount of the bond in a proceeding provided for by rule or so much of that amount as may be required and shall pay the amount to the client.

NEW SECTION. Section 7.  License application -- examination required -- issuance of license. A person requesting licensure as a licensed home companion shall make application for licensure on a form provided by the department. The department shall require passage of a written examination as a prerequisite to licensure. An applicant for licensure must be licensed by the department upon:

(1) passage of the examination;

(2) satisfaction of the requirements of the department adopted pursuant to [sections 3 and 5] to ensure honesty, trustworthiness, and appropriate skills, training, or experience;

(3) filing of the bond required by [section 6]; and

(4) payment of fees required by the department pursuant to [section 9].

NEW SECTION. Section 8.  Renewal of license. A license issued by the department pursuant to [sections 1 through 10] expires at the time provided by department rule. A person intending to renew a license shall pay a renewal fee to the department, file a bond with the department for the period of licensure in the same manner and upon the same conditions as provided in [section 6], and provide the department with further evidence as the department may require regarding the continuing good character of the applicant. An examination may not be required by the department for renewal of a license.

NEW SECTION. Section 9.  Fees. The department may establish by rule and collect the following fees for the purposes of [sections 1 through 10], which must be commensurate with the costs of the licensing program provided for in [sections 1 through 10]:

(1) an application fee;

(2) an examination fee;

(3) a licensing fee;

(4) a renewal fee; and

(5) a late renewal fee.

NEW SECTION. Section 10.  Deposit of fees and fines. Fees and fines collected by the department pursuant to [sections 1 through 10] must be deposited in an account in the state special revenue fund and are subject to appropriation for the purposes provided for in [sections 1 through 10].

NEW SECTION. Section 11.  Codification instruction. [Sections 1 through 10] are intended to be codified as an integral part of Title 37, and the provisions of Title 37 apply to [sections 1 through 10].

NEW SECTION. Section 12.  Effective dates. (1) Except as provided in subsection (2), [this act] is effective October 1, 1997.

(2) For purposes of adopting rules, [sections 3 and 5 and this section] are effective on passage and approval.