Caretaker Registry A 'Step Forward' To Prevent Abuse, Supporters Say

BOSTON (State House News Service) — Advocates and lawmakers said Tuesday they are confident that a new state law establishing a registry of caretakers found to have abused individuals with disabilities and barring providers from hiring them will stand up to any potential court challenges.

Under the new law known as Nicky's Law, which will take effect on Jan. 31, 2021, the Disabled Persons Protection Commission will establish and maintain a registry of care providers against whom the commission has made a "substantiated finding of registrable abuse." It also requires the department and employers contracting with care providers to determine whether an individual is listed on the registry before hiring them. If the applicant is listed, their hiring would be prohibited.

Rep. Linda Dean Campbell, the lead House sponsor of the legislation, said she is sure the law will hold up if challenged in court, particularly because the provisions in it that allow the names of abusers to come off the registry after at least five years and the appeals process written into the law.

Gov. Charlie Baker officially signed the bill into law on Feb. 13, but he held a signing ceremony in his office Tuesday to mark the occasion with advocates and lawmakers. In particular, Baker thanked two families who shared stories of their loved ones being abused to help bring awareness to the issue and get the bill across the goal line.

"The incredible work is one thing, but the real heroes are the people who have survived abuse, people with disabilities who have the right to live lives of dignity and safety, and for whom that was taken away at some point," Cheryl Chan, who helped lead the push for a Massachusetts law after her son, Nicky, was abused, said. "It happens every day. That happens all the time, across Massachusetts and around the country and certainly around the globe, but every step that we can take to somehow curb that abuse is a step forward, not just for Massachusetts but for humanity and the dignity of those that we represent."

At Tuesday's signing ceremony, the governor changed up his usual bill-signing routine out of an abundance of caution.

"Normally, I sit down and I sign all these and then I hand out all the pens," Baker said, surveying a slew of pens arranged on his desk for him to use to sign the bill and then give to advocates. "But it occurred to me that in coronavirusland I'm going to sign with one of them and then let you each just pick one up."

by Colin A. Young, State House News Service

WBZ NewsRadio's Karyn Regal (@Karynregal) reports

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