House Approves Legislation to Protect Persons with Intellectual or Developmental Disabilities from Harm

(STATE HOUSE, Boston, MA)  Rep. Josh Cutler (D-Pembroke) and his colleagues in the Mass. House of Representatives have passed bipartisan legislation to establish a statewide caretaker registry to protect individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities from repeat abusers.

The bill is named for Nicky, a non-verbal young man with autism who was abused by his caretaker at a day program for people with intellectual disabilities. Nicky’s family came forward after learning there was no current mechanism in place to prevent an accused abuser from being rehired at another day program.

The bill creates a ‘do not hire’ list to ensure that caregivers who commit substantiated acts of abuse or neglect are not able to continue to harm individuals with disabilities. All state licensed employers will be required check the registry before hiring or retaining any person as a care provider.

Rep. Cutler is a co-sponsor of “Nicky’s Law,” and as House Vice-Chair of the Joint Committee on Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities, helped advance the bill through House. It was approved by the full House this week on a unanimous, bipartisan basis.

“This legislation is known as ‘Nicky’s Law’ or ‘Dana’s Law’ but sadly, it could also be known as Liam’s Law, Gracia’s Law, Nat’s Law, or Megan’s Law to name just a few. These are all individuals with disabilities who were victims of some form of abuse or neglect by their caretakers. And those are just a few of the names we know about,” said Rep. Cutler. “This bill will close a critical loophole in the system and offer peace of mind to families of some of our most vulnerable residents.”

Under the bill, the Disabled Persons Protection Commission will be required to create a confidential registry listing any care providers with substantiated claims of abuse. Accused caregivers would receive notice and be given an opportunity to appeal and their names would only be added to the registry if the finding is upheld. Employers who fail to comply with the law could face a fine of up to $5,000, license revocation, and forfeiture of state contracts.

During the last fiscal year, the State Police Detective Unit reviewed 13,102 allegations of abuse, with 2,214 of these reports referred to district attorneys  for criminal investigation. According to The Arc of Massachusetts, less than 10 percent of cases referred actually result in charges against the abuser.

The legislation builds on ongoing increased support for those departments serving adults and children with intellectual or developmental disabilities. From 2012 to 2020, DPPC funding has increased by 93 percent.

Rep. Linda Dean Campbell (D-Methuen) is the lead House sponsor of the bill, known as An Act to Protect Persons with Intellectual or Developmental Disabilities from Abuse.  The Senate previously approved its own version of the caregiver registry. Both branches will now work to reconcile the minor differences between the two bills.