BOSTON – The Massachusetts State Senate took action 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 (D, Millbury) 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 abuse 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.
“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. “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.”
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.
“When I first took office, a concerned mother reached out and shared with me a story about how her son, Dana, had been mentally and physically abused by his caretakers. That caretaker continued to seek out new jobs in the same field, but individuals with histories of abusiveness must be kept far away from this field of work,” said Senator Patrick O’Connor (R-Weymouth). “The Senate came together to pass common-sense legislation to protect those who are most vulnerable in our society. It must be a basic standard that all caretakers are compassionate, responsible, and respectful.”
“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 (DALA). 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, has now been referred to the House of Representatives for consideration. To continue tracking the bill, S.2606, please visit the Legislature’s website, www.malegislature.gov.