Family members of people with disabilities who have been abused by caregivers called on the Massachusetts House Tuesday to follow the state Senate's lead and pass a bill to create a registry of individuals found to have abused people they were supposed care for.
The Senate in mid-July unanimously approved the bill (S 2606) that would direct the Disabled Persons Protection Commission to maintain the "Massachusetts Registry of Abusers of Persons with Intellectual or Developmental Disabilities" and add to the list any care provider against whom the commission substantiates a claim of abuse -- even if the claim is not prosecuted in court.
The Department of Developmental Services and employers would be required to check the registry and prohibited from hiring or contracting with any caretaker named on it.
"I can tell you without hesitation that the systems that are in place are not working and we are failing to protect people with developmental disability in Massachusetts from sexual and other forms of abuse," said Anna Eves, whose son was the victim of abuse in 2017. She serves as vice president of Massachusetts Coalition of Families and Advocates and spoke during at an oversight hearing of the Department of Developmental Services on Tuesday.
Eves said that abuse claims were substantiated against seven people who worked with her son, and that, as of a month ago, at least two of them were still working in the same jobs. If the registry bill were in place, those workers would not be allowed to work for DDS or for DDS-funded programs.
"I am shocked it is taking this long to pass a bill that would prevent known abusers access to new victims. People with developmental disabilities need and deserve protection."Anna Eves, vice president of Massachusetts Coalition of Families and Advocates
"I am shocked it is taking this long to pass a bill that would prevent known abusers access to new victims," she said. "People with developmental disabilities need and deserve protection. Every day that passes without this bill allows abusers to continue to abuse. Pass this bill as it is."
Officials from the Department of Developmental Services and the independent Disabled Persons Protection Commission were called to testify on what each agency does to protect people with disabilities from abuse, particularly sexual abuse.
Nancy Alterio, executive director of the DPPC, said sexual abuse of people with disabilities is "a prolific problem" and that the rate of abuse of people with disabilities is seven times greater than it is for individuals without disabilities.
In Massachusetts, there has been a 30 percent increase in abuse allegations called into the DPPC's hotline over the past five years, and, Alterio said, a nearly 20 percent increase in allegations of sexual abuse against people with intellectual or developmental disabilities.