Representative Steven Howitt Supports ‘Nicky’s Law’
Bill would establish a statewide registry to protect disabled from abusive caregivers
Boston – State Representative Steven Howitt, R-Seekonk is supporting the establishment of a statewide registry to help protect individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities from abuse by their caregiver.
Senate Bill 2367, also known as “Nicky’s Law”, directs the Disabled Persons Protection Commission (DPPC) to create a confidential registry that will include the names of all care providers found to have abused a disabled individual. The bill was amended by the House of Representatives with the substitution of a new text – House Bill 4296 – and engrossed on a vote of 154-0 on January 15.
Nicky’s Law is named after Nicky Chan, a non-verbal individual who was beaten while attending a day program for people with intellectual disabilities in Millbury, Massachusetts. Nicky’s mother, Cheryl, has been advocating for the creation of a registry since learning there is currently no mechanism in place to prevent an accused abuser from being rehired elsewhere.
“One of the most important things that we do is to protect the safety and welfare of the citizens of the Commonwealth, especially those with challenges like Nicky Chan. We are hopeful that the House and Senate will work together now to reconcile the differences between bills and reach a good outcome,” said Representative Howitt.
Under Nicky’s Law, the Department of Developmental Services (DDS) and employers will be required to consult the registry before hiring a caregiver, and prohibited from employing any person who is listed on the registry. Employers who fail to comply with the law could face a fine of up to $5,000, the revocation of their license, the forfeiture of their state contract, or any combination of these penalties.
In addition to notifying DDS and the care provider’s last known employer of their placement on the registry, the DPPC will also be required to notify the care provider of their right to appeal the decision to the Division of Administrative Law Appeals. Individuals listed on the registry can petition the DPPC to remove their name 5 years after their initial placement on the registry or 5 years after the conclusion of any prior petition to remove their name, whichever is later.
In Fiscal Year 2019, the State Police Detective Unit assigned to the DPPC reviewed 13,102 allegations of abuse, with 2,214 of these reports referred to the District Attorneys for further review or assignment for a criminal investigation. According to The Arc of Massachusetts, less than 10% of cases referred to District Attorneys actually result in charges against the abuser.