House Unanimously Passes Legislation to Help Protect Persons with Intellectual or Developmental Disabilities from Harm
January 15, 2020 – (BOSTON) – Last week, State Representative Denise C. Garlick (D-Needham), alongside her colleagues in the House of Representatives, voted to reinforce their commitment to protecting the most vulnerable members of the Commonwealth with the passage of a bill commonly known as “Nicky’s Law.” The unanimously-approved legislation would create a registry of care providers who harmed a person or persons with an intellectual or developmental disability, and prevent those providers from being hired for programs funded or operated by the Department of Developmental Services (DDS).
As a Legislator, a nurse with experience caring for individuals with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities who are medically fragile in our community, and as a Mother of a young adult daughter with developmental disabilities, I am acutely sensitive to the complicated environments in which these individuals live and work,” said Representative Garlick. “They have multiple interactions with a workforce that is challenged with frequent turnovers, low pay, and high stress. Individuals with intellectual and/ or developmental disabilities my have limitations on their ability to speak, advocate, report and perhaps process that any instance of abuse or neglect is never acceptable.”
“It is the job of a moral society and through the Legislature to protect vulnerable residents. This bill is a tool to help achieve that worthy goal,” said Representative Garlick.
While there are many competent, compassionate, and committed staff who care for persons with intellectual or developmental disabilities every day, the reality is that some individuals are inappropriately employed to care for vulnerable people. Out of the near 1,500 abuse reports referred to the appropriate District Attorney’s office in 2017, only 102 (less than 10%) resulted in criminal charges. The low ratio of criminal charges to abuse case referrals exacerbates the need for some other mechanism to protect this vulnerable population. In the absence of a system to track individuals with substantiated incidents of abuse against an individual with an intellectual or developmental disability, workers who have a substantiated abuse claims against them, but have not been criminally charged, could leave their position and find a new position with a different agency working with the same vulnerable population.
In an effort to increase protections for person with intellectual and developmental disabilities, this legislation requires the names of care providers against whom a substantiated finding of abuse has been issued by the Disabled Persons Protection Commission to be placed on an abuse registry. Agencies, such as the Department of Developmental Services, and other employers of care providers would be required to search the registry before hiring a staff person and would be prohibited from hiring anyone who was found to have committed a substantiated incident of abuse.
The bill will now go to the Senate.