Representative Paul K. Frost (R-Auburn) has cast his vote in support of An Act to protect persons with intellectual or developmental disabilities from abuse, which passed unanimously during a formal session in the House of Representatives held on Wednesday, January 15th.
The bill, also known as “Nicky’s Law”, is named after Nicky Chan, a non-verbal individual who was abused while attending a day program for people with intellectual disabilities in Millbury, Massachusetts. Nicky’s mother, Cheryl, discovered that the abuser was able to apply for another position in a different organization working with people with disabilities, which had received no warning of the previous incident. Since then Cheryl, a resident of Auburn, has advocated tirelessly at the State House for a system to track individuals whose act of abuse have been substantiated- an important addition to criminal background checks for a hiring agency to consider, as the vast majority of cases referred to the District Attorneys do not result in charges against the perpetrator.
Frost said, “At long last this Nicky’s Bill will soon become Nicky’s Law in the Commonwealth. It passed in the Massachusetts House of Representatives in a bipartisan unanimous vote and previously passed in the Senate. This legislation helps those who can’t speak for themselves or defend themselves from those who intentionally would do them harm. It addresses due process concerns and will become an important tool to identify and keep out horrible individuals from working in fields meant to help those who are the most vulnerable in our society. I congratulate Cheryl Chan of Auburn and all those who fought for and advocated for this in the love and support of their children with developmental or intellectual challenges. They have made a real difference.”
The legislation directs the Disabled Persons Protection Commission (DPPC) to create a confidential registry that will include the names of all care providers found to have abused a disabled individual. The Department of Developmental Services and employers will be required to consult the registry before hiring a caregiver, and are prohibited from employing any person who is listed on the registry. Employers who fail to comply with the law could face a fine of up to $5,000, the revocation of their license, the forfeiture of their state contract, or any combination of these penalties. Individuals listed on the registry can petition the DPPC to remove their name 5 years after their initial placement on the registry or 5 years after the conclusion of any prior petition to remove their name, whichever is later.
The Massachusetts Senate previously approved its own version of the caregiver registry in October of 2019. Both branches will now work to reconcile the differences between the two bills.