By: State Rep. Linda Dean Campell – Aug. 2017
Many of us in the Merrimack Valley know individuals who have intellectual and developmental disabilities in addition to knowing family members, friends, and professionals who care for them. While most caretakers do amazingly compassionate work every day to assist those in need of around the clock care, there are a few who choose to take advantage of one of our most vulnerable populations by physically, sexually, emotionally or financially abusing them.
In many instances families do not become aware of abuse until it has occurred for an extended period because often disabled individuals who suffer are unable to easily communicate what has been done to them.
There is a gap in our system of protection for vulnerable individuals which allows caretakers that have abused their former patients to seek employment elsewhere with no central registry available to alert a new employer of the caretaker’s previous misconduct. It is time for Massachusetts to join the twenty other states that already have some form of an impaired adult or developmental disability abuse registry.
Cheryl Ryan Chan shared with us the story of her disabled son, Nicky, who had fallen victim to abuse. Cheryl received a copy of a report from the Disabled Persons Protection Commission (DPPC) that explained how Nicky had been horrifically abused on more than one occasion at his day program and when she asked about what was in place to prevent abusers from seeking employment at another provider she was told there was nothing. Nicky’s story is just one of many tragic accounts presented at the hearing and is the reason why I filed H.80, An Act to establish a registry of caretakers found to have substantiated abuse against persons with intellectual disability or developmental disability. This legislation would create a comprehensive registry for individuals with substantiated abuse records.
The push for the legislation started in July of 2016 with the release of a federal audit of group homes that serve individuals with disabilities in Massachusetts. Following the release of the report, the Boston Globe reported that the U.S. Inspector General uncovered disturbing information and statistics in relation to abuse conducted by employees of Massachusetts group homes. The report from the IG indicated that 58% of emergency room visits from the group homes involved reasonable suspicion of abuse and neglect between January 2012 and June of 2014, but were not reported to an investigator, which is a violation of their Medicaid waiver.
This legislation is a collective effort between the ARC of Massachusetts who worked for two years to draft this legislation, state agencies that will implement this legislation, and disability providers. The MA Department of Developmental Services (DDS) and the Disabled Persons Protection Commission are supportive of this legislation.
It is accepted that there are not enough resources dedicated to implementing a robust inspection program. This legislation is important because it aims to prevent abuse.
The legislation will now be considered by the Committee on Children and Families and Persons with Disabilities. I am very encouraged by the support of state agencies concerned with implementation and the early hearing that this legislation received.
State Representative Linda Dean Campbell represents 15th Essex which includes the cities of Methuen and Haverhill. She can be reached at 617.722.2380 or Linda.Campbell@mahouse.gov or email@example.com She currently serves as the Vice Chair on the Committee on Revenue.