‘Nicky’s Law’ goes into effect, creating new abuse registry of caregivers in Mass.

BOSTON — Governor Baker and other state officials have worked together to pass a new law protecting persons with disabilities from abuse.

On Tuesday, officials, advocates and family members of individuals with developmental disabilities joined for a ceremonial signing of the Act To Protect Persons with Intellectual or Developmental Disabilities from Abuse, also known as “Nicky’s Law.”

The family of Nicky Chan, the law’s namesake, accused a caretaker at a day program of abusing Nicky, alleging he was “badly beaten along the head, sat on and punched."

Cheryl Chan and her husband got a letter in the mail from the program their then 21-year-old autistic and non-verbal son saying they were investigating whether Nicky was beaten by one of the day program employees, while another looked on in a van in a local park.

Chan and her husband took the case to court, but a jury found the employee not guilty.

The Arc of Massachusetts says every year 11,000 cases of people with disabilities being abused are reported in Massachusetts.

But in many cases, accusers are found not guilty because victims can’t testify.

Chan started researching and learned a handful of other states have abuse registries that list the names of anyone substantiated by state investigators of abusing someone with a disability.

She teamed up with her Senator Michael Moore (D-Shrewsbury) and The Arc and helped secure passage of “Nicky’s Law” through the senate. That bill became law officially in 2020.

The registry will be administered by the Disabled Persons Protection Commission (DPPC) - the agency tasked with protecting adults with disabilities from the abusive acts or omissions of their caregivers - who will continually update and maintain the registry’s list of any providers or caregivers with a history of abuse. As of January 31, 2021, anyone listed on the registry cannot be hired to work for DDS or any of its licensed or funded providers throughout the state.

“Protecting individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities is vitally important, and I want to thank the family members, advocates and our legislative colleagues for their work to pass this bill,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “The new registry established in Nicky’s Law will provide an additional safeguard against abuse and further improve the safety and quality of services provided to some of the Commonwealth’s most vulnerable residents.”

Under current law, any candidate applying to work with DDS or any licensed providers is required to undergo a criminal offender record information and national background check screening before they can be hired. The newly created registry will provide an additional resource which DDS and its providers can use to better conduct comprehensive background checks on candidates.

DDS currently provides care and support to over 40,000 people with intellectual and developmental disabilities across the Commonwealth.

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