Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility Act Now: Ask Your Legislators to Support H180 and Ban Aversive Therapies! - The Arc of Massachusetts Skip to main content

Dear Advocates,

It’s been a busy time in the legislature for hearings this summer. As we look to the Fall, we will have an important bill that will be heard by the Joint Committee on Children and Families and Persons with Disabilities. This bill, H180, is called  “An Act regarding the use of aversive therapy.”

It has been a priority bill for The Arc for many sessions. The Arc and many of our advocacy partners want to see the use of electric shock treatment banned here in Massachusetts. Looking at the bill filed by Representative Danielle Gregoire, we need more legislative support and cosponsors. Please reach out to your Representative and Senator and ask them to cosponsor H180 and support this legislation to pass favorably out of committee.

This bill would ban any agency, organization, or program that is funded, operated, or licensed by or through the Commonwealth of Massachusetts from using aversive therapies, such as electric shock treatment, on any person with or without a physical, intellectual, or developmental disability, for the purposes of changing the behavior of the person.

The Judge Rotenberg Center (JRC) is a day and residential school for children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities, including autism. JRC is located in Canton, Massachusetts, and uses “contingent skin shock” for severe problem behavior for children and adults in their care. It is the only institution, in the United States that uses electric shock as a behavioral therapy.

In 2020, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned electrical stimulation devices (ESDs) for self-injurious or aggressive behavior, citing these devices present an “unreasonable and substantial risk of illness or injury”. However, in 2021, the ruling was overturned, due to a nuanced question as to the ban or partial ban of an otherwise already authorized device, depending on how it is used. As a background, the FDA approves and regulates both medical devices and drugs.

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