BOSTON – Senator Cindy Friedman, D-Arlington, joined her colleagues in voting on 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 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.
“It is unconscionable that we do not have laws on the books to adequately protect disabled persons in Massachusetts who experience harm by their own caretakers,” said Senator Friedman. “The Senate showed its commitment to our state’s disabled population today by passing this important legislation, which would make it much easier to identify abusive caretakers in our communities. This is a commonsense step that will make an enormous impact on our families, friends and neighbors throughout the Commonwealth.”
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.
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 legislation is now before the House of Representatives for consideration. Similar legislation passed the Senate last year, however, no further action was taken. To track the progress of the bill, visit https://malegislature.gov/Bills/191/S2367.