Baker signs law creating caregiver abuse registry
Victims with disabilities particularly vulnerable to harm
NICKY CHAN was attending a day program for people with intellectual disabilities when he was beaten by a caregiver. The caregiver was found not guilty in court, and there was no way to ensure the caregiver would not get a job at another program.
Michael Long was the sole nighttime caregiver for a woman with a developmental disability when he raped her. It took nearly four years between the rape and Long’s criminal conviction. For more than a year during that time, Long worked for a different provider that cared for people with disabilities.
On Thursday, Gov. Charlie Baker signed a law, referred to as Nicky’s Law after Nicky Chan, to create a confidential registry of caregivers who abused people with disabilities.
State-licensed providers who care for people with disabilities will be required to check the registry and will not be allowed to hire anyone on the registry.
The registry will become effective January 31, 2021.
The state Senate passed the bill in October, after advocacy from Nicky Chan’s family and bill sponsors Sens. Michael Moore and Patrick O’Connor. The House followed suit in January.
Statistically, abuse of people with disabilities is rarely charged in court for a range of reasons. Victims may be nonverbal, their memories may be unreliable by the time an incident is reported, or they may face pressure from a place where they receive services not to testify. According to the bill’s sponsors, 26 states have registries to track individuals who abuse people with disabilities, based on agency investigations rather than criminal convictions.
Neither Moore nor Cheryl Chan, Nicky’s mother, could immediately be reached for comment Thursday evening.
Leo Sarkissian, executive director of the Arc of Massachusetts, which advocates for people with disabilities, said, “Our community is grateful that Nicky’s law has completed its journey and is now law in the Commonwealth. We look forward to the full implementation of the registry with the awareness that it has the full support of the administration and Legislature.”Orlando Pena, chapter president of private sector human services for SEIU 509, which represents human service workers, said the new law “secures protections for our clients and their families while establishing due process for care providers if an accusation of abuse or neglect were to arise.”
“Nicky’s Law reaffirms our commitment to ensuring that families and workers throughout the Commonwealth feel secure in receiving and providing care,” Pena said in a statement.