Senator O’Connor, of Weymouth, is a lead sponsor of the legislation
BOSTON – Yesterday, Senator O’Connor and the families of Dana Schneider and Nicky Chan joined Lt. Governor Karyn Polito, Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders, Department of Developmental Services Commissioner Jane Ryder, Disabled Persons Protection Commission Director Nancy Alterio, the Arc of Massachusetts, the Massachusetts Developmental Disabilities Council, and advocates to gather around Governor Baker’s desk as he ceremoniously signed legislation creating a new abuse registry of caregivers in Massachusetts.
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 maintain the registry’s list of any providers or caregivers with histories of substantiated abuse. Beginning January 31, 2021 any individual listed on the registry cannot be hired or work for the Department of Developmental Services or any of its licensed and funded providers throughout the state.
“The love that these families have for their children is so strong and unrelenting that they managed to manifest real change so that no one would have to endure what their children did,” said Senator O’Connor (R-Weymouth), a lead sponsor of Dana’s/Nicky’s Law. “Today is a great day in our fight to protect the most vulnerable among us and it is all thanks to the families that had the courage to tell their story.”
When O’Connor first took office, a concerned mother from Weymouth, Ann Joyce, reached out and shared with him a story about how her son, Dana, had been emotionally and physically abused by his caretakers.
Like many families do, Dana’s parents entrusted him to a residential care facility. After a while, Ann started to notice a change in Dana’s demeanor when they would go back to his group home after spending a weekend with the family. Ann then placed a hidden camera in Dana’s room at the group home. When she checked the footage, she was horrified to see that her intuition was correct – Dana was being abused by two of his caretakers. After one caretaker was fired, she then turned around and applied for a job at a similar residential care facility and would have been hired had Dana’s mother not worked at the same facility.
“This important legislation allows the Department of Developmental Services to have greater oversight and accountability in hiring staff and caregivers for the 40,000 individuals and families they serve across the state,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “Through partnering with the Disabled Persons Protection Commission, this Registry will prevent the hiring of anyone with a record of substantiated abuse to further improve the safety and quality of services provided for persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities.”
The Department of Developmental Services provides support to over 40,000 individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities in a variety of residential settings (ranging from state operated facilities and group homes), community-based day programs, and employment settings among others.
Currently, candidates who apply to the Department of Developmental Services or one of its licensed providers must undergo a Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI) and National Background Check screening before they can be hired. The creation of this Registry will now provide an additional resource against which DDS and its providers must conduct comprehensive background checks on candidates interested in working with those served by the Department.
DPPC will maintain the registry and oversee all functions including notification, decision appeals and requests to remove a name from the Registry. The law takes effect on January 31, 2021, and will only include the names of individuals with substantiated cases of abuse after that date.
Senator Patrick O’Connor represents the Plymouth and Norfolk district, which includes the towns of Cohasset, Duxbury, Hingham, Hull, Marshfield, Norwell, Scituate, and Weymouth. Sen. O’Connor and his staff may be reached at the State House at 617-722-1646 or by email at Patrick.O’[email protected].