On Thursday, November 15, The Arc of Massachusetts participated in a vigil for Nicky’s Law, also known as the Abuse Registry Bill, at the Massachusetts State House. Nicky’s Law would call for the creation of a registry for care providers who have been substantiated of abuse against individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD).
DDS and DDS-funded providers would not be able to hire someone on this registry. The registry includes a formal appeal process through DALA. The Senate bill passed unanimously through the Senate in July 2018, and now sits in the House Ways and Means Committee. We are hopeful that the bill can pass during this informal session.
From 10:00AM to 4:00PM, advocates visited with their legislators, including Representatives, Senators, and Leadership, to stress the need for the protections of such an important bill. Attendees of the daylong event included self-advocates, parents, siblings, and professionals, and turnout only continued to grow throughout the day.
The morning began with a 45-minute session of speeches from legislators Senator Mike Moore and Senator Patrick O’Connor; parents Cheryl and Alex Chan and Paul and Ann Joyce; sibling and professional Hillary Dunn Stanisz of the Disability Law Center; and Maura Sullivan and Leo Sarkissian of The Arc of Massachusetts. Following the initial vigil kickoff, advocates sat in on an informal session of the House of Representatives, before dispersing to meet with their legislators. Representative Linda Dean Campbell, the bill’s House sponsor, stopped by later in the day, spending time answering advocates’ questions about how to make the most of their advocacy efforts.
Senator Moore of Worcester, the bill’s Senate sponsor, stressed the importance of advocates’ active involvement in the coming weeks: “The only way we can get this bill through is really by having you and other family members go to my colleagues in the House, and in the Senate when it comes back, on how this and why this is such an important issue.”
Ann Joyce, mother of Dana, a young man who was abused by a care provider, succinctly summarized the passion in the room and the need for this bill during her speech. “In this day and age of the #MeToo movement, people are finally finding the power to come out about abuse that they experienced – that we, as a country, as a state, our citizens, the most vulnerable, have to go through,” she stated. “But I just know that if our sons, Nicky and Dana, could speak for themselves, they would too stand up and say, ‘Time’s up.’”
The Arc of Massachusetts and Disability Law Center will be continuing vigil efforts at the State House in the weeks to come. Stay tuned to arcmass.org and The Arc of Massachusetts Facebook page for the latest scheduling updates.
Written by Katerina Daley
Development and Digital Media Associate
With additional reporting by Charlie Fiske
Director of Public Policy