COMMONWEALTH OF MASSACHUSETTS
STATE HOUSE, BOSTON 02133
Senator Joan B. Lovely
2nd Essex District
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
July 19, 2018
Senate Passes Bill to Protect Individuals
with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities from Abuse
BOSTON – Yesterday, the Massachusetts State Senate acted to protect individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities from caregivers found to have substantiated charges of abuse.
Known as Nicky’s Law, the legislation was filed by Senator Michael O. Moore to address a gap in protections for the most vulnerable members of our community. The bill establishes a registry of individuals found to have committed substantiated abuses of individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities. Providers serving these populations would be required to screen potential employees during the application process and prohibited from hiring any individual who appears on the registry.
“The Commonwealth must take measures to provide all appropriate protections for persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities,” said Senator Joan B. Lovely (D-Salem). “I am pleased that the Senate voted to pass legislation that protects this vulnerable population from abuse.”
Research shows that individuals with disabilities, like other vulnerable populations, are more likely to be abused. Additionally, cognitive or speech difficulties, physical barriers to the judicial system, and lower rates of police follow-up and prosecution make criminal convictions extremely difficult. Despite these challenges, a criminal conviction is currently the only way to prevent an abusive caretaker from being hired by an unknowing provider in Massachusetts. The registry will instead rely on the findings of the Disabled Persons Protection Commission (DPPC), which already investigates all allegations of abuse against individuals with developmental and intellectual disabilities.
“Almost four years ago I was contacted by a constituent, whose son Nicky was tragically abused by a Commonwealth licensed service provider” said Senator Michael O. Moore (D-Millbury). “When criminal prosecution did not result in a conviction, the family was shocked and devastated to learn no existing state law would prevent the abuser from gaining employment with another provider. The Commonwealth has an elevated responsibility to protect the most vulnerable members of our community, and this legislation will disrupt a cycle of abuse that has already affected far too many families in Massachusetts. The passage of this bill is a victory for Nicky, and hundreds of individuals and families across the Commonwealth.”
“Those who abuse individuals with developmental disabilities must be held to account. Today, the Senate has acted to close the gap in protections for persons with developmental disabilities and help deny abusers the chance to abuse again. I want to thank Senator Moore for championing this legislation,” said Senate President Harriette L. Chandler (D-Worcester).
Nicky’s Law emerged from a collaborative process that included significant input form disability advocates, relevant state agencies, and legislators. The final language includes robust due process protections, including the option for a full appeal hearing before the Division of Administrative Legal Appeals. Service providers who fail to check the registry will be subject to fines, and the potential termination of licenses and state contracts. The DPPC is also mandated to conduct an annual audit to ensure all applicable names are added to the registry and providers fully comply with reporting requirements.
The legislation, which passed the Senate unanimously, now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.