BOSTON — With unanimous approval, the Massachusetts State House has passed a bill creating a formal registry of suspects accused of abusing individuals with developmental disabilities on Wednesday.
Bill S.2367, popularly dubbed “Nicky’s Law,” would require oversight from the Disabled Persons Protection Commission (DPPC) in establishing the registry, which is intended to track caretakers of people with developmental disabilities who have been credibly accused of abuse.
The bill, which was approved by the Massachusetts Senate in 2019, was first introduced two years ago following the physical assault on 21-year-old Nicky Chan of Millbury by his caretaker while at a day facility in 2014. Despite being formally prosecuted, Chan’s caretaker had been found not guilty. Chan, who is nonverbal and autistic, was unable to testify in the proceedings.
In passing the bill, Massachusetts would join 26 other states who have passed similar registries to monitor developmental disability abuse cases.
“Care providers who take advantage of their position to abuse people in their care often face little or no consequences for their behavior because many victims, as we know, cannot testify in court or tell their family of the abuse due to their disability,” said State Representative Kay Khan (D-MA) during Wednesday’s hearing.
Under the law, the DPPC would place providers facing credible allegations of abuse on a public registry hosted on their website, including their name, date of birth, allegations and relevant employment history. Caretakers would be notified and allowed to appeal the finding within a span of up to 10 days. The bill would potentially bar providers from hiring caretakers whose names appear on the DPPC registry.
According to Khan, over 13,000 calls to DPPC’s hotline reporting sexual, emotional and physical abuse were made in 2019 alone. More than 2,200 cases were referred to local district attorneys for criminal investigation. In the majority of cases, no charges were filed.
“The reality that someone can be substantiated for abuse as determined by the state agency responsible — namely the DPPC — but can work the following week, month or year at another location with vulnerable individuals is simply wrong and against the public interest,” says ARC of Massachusetts, a local developmental disability advocacy group.
The final bill, sponsored by Senator Michael Moore (D-Worcester) and State Representative Linda Campbell (D-MA), needs to meet with consensus agreement between House and Senate before final approval from Governor Charlie Baker. Gov. Baker’s decision is expected in the next few months.
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