Senator Michael O. Moore (D-Millbury) announced that the Massachusetts Senate unanimously passed legislation, known as “Nicky’s Law,” that would strengthen protections for persons with disabilities. In an effort to prevent continued caretaker employment for offenders, the Moore-sponsored bill would direct the Disabled Persons Protection Commission (DPPC) to establish a registry that identifies individuals who have been found to have committed abuse against persons with disabilities.
The bill was filed in response to physical abuse by a caretaker against Nicky, an intellectually disabled and non-verbal individual. Following an investigation, a report filed by DPPC substantiated claims that Nicky had been inappropriately restrained and struck
multiple times by their caretaker. Unless criminally convicted, no systems currently exist to identify caretakers and prevent them from finding employment with another provider licensed by the state.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, persons with disabilities are victimized in violent crimes at the rate of 2.5 times that of the general population. The bill would require DPPC to establish and maintain a registry of former employees who have been
terminated or separated from employment as a result of abuse directed toward a person with a disability. The bill resembles protections already enacted in at least twenty-six other states. Massachusetts currently possesses a similar registry for childcare employees.
“Enacting this registry will help disrupt a cycle of abuse of individuals with disabilities, and put in place common-sense protections that families in the Commonwealth deserve,” said Senator Moore. “There are clear benefits to screening prospective employees who intend to work within the licensed caretaker field and I am hopeful that the bill will advance to the Governor’s desk to help protect our most vulnerable residents like Nicky.”
“Nicky’s Law has been The Arc’s priority legislation for the last two sessions,” said Maura Sullivan, Director of Government Affairs for The Arc of Massachusetts, which is advocating for passage of the bill. “We have worked closely with Senator Moore to gain the support of the legislature and work through any concerns from relevant agencies. There is no doubt that the disability community has stepped up to fight for this bill and they cannot wait any longer for the creation of this registry.”
DPPC also operates a 24-hour hotline to which citizens of the Commonwealth can report incidents of suspected abuse involving adults with disabilities. If you or someone you know is a victim of abuse, dial 1-800-426-9009 or 1-888-822-0350 TTY.
The bill, S.2367, has now been referred to the House of Representatives for consideration. Similar legislation passed the Senate last year, however, no further action was taken. To continue tracking the status of the bill, please visit the Legislature’s website, www.MAlegislature.gov.