By: Rep. Linda Dean Campbell – Oct.2019
One of my top priorities this session and last session, Nicky’s Law, has taken a big step forward in the legislative process. The bill, which I filed to help protect individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities from abuse by care providers, recently received a favorable vote from the state’s Joint Committee on Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities. The bill now awaits a vote on the House floor.
This legislation fixes a major loophole in our current system: a care provider who is found to have committed serious abuse against a disabled individual often faces limited consequences for their actions, as these cases rarely make it to court. Even if the care provider loses their job, they can often find employment with a different agency that serves disabled individuals, allowing them the chance to abuse again and again.
Nicky’s Law creates a registry of care providers that are found to have committed serious abuse against a disabled individual. Employers that are licensed or funded by the state’s Department of Developmental Services will not be allowed to hire anyone whose name appears on the registry. This will ensure that willful abusers do not gain employment in this industry, thereby keeping disabled individuals safer and allowing the many dedicated care providers who do spectacular work to be rightfully appreciated.
The bill has been carefully crafted so that care providers have extensive due process and the chance to appeal their case. Additionally, those who are added to the registry can petition to be removed every 5 years. The bill also states that all information in the registry will be kept confidential.
Nicky’s Law came very close to passing last session, but a few last-minute concerns required us to rework pieces of the bill. Through diligent and collaborative work with all stakeholders, we addressed these concerns and made the legislation stronger – the bill successfully balances protections for disabled individuals with the due process rights of care providers.
A huge thank you to the families and advocates who have been pushing for this bill for years. We would not have gotten this far without their persistence and courage in sharing their stories. They showed up hearing after hearing to make sure the Legislature knew that action on this issue cannot wait. The instances of abuse are simply too numerous and too horrific.
In the last 5 years, the state’s Disabled Persons Protection Commission has seen a 30% increase in reports of alleged abuse for a total of over 11,000 reports, with almost half of these involving individuals with intellectual disabilities. This is appalling and absolutely unacceptable. We must pass Nicky’s Law immediately. The high level of bipartisan support for this bill is very encouraging, and I look forward to continuing the push.
State Representative Linda Dean Campbell represents the cities of Methuen and Haverhill in the State Legislature and serves as House Chair of the Joint Committee on Veterans and Federal Affairs. She can be reached at Linda.Campbell@mahouse.gov or (617) 722-2380. ◊