The Disabled Persons Protection Commission (DPPC) operates a 24-hour Hotline to which citizens of the Commonwealth can report incidents of suspected abuse involving adults with disabilities by dialing 1-800-426-9009 or 1-888-822-0350 TTY. A written report is also required within 48 hours of the oral report. A written report of deaths must be forwarded to DPPC within 24 hours of the death. The DPPC Hotline and the Intake/Oversight Unit staff who operate it are a vital part of the DPPC’s efforts to protect adults with disabilities, who are dependent upon others, from abuse and neglect.
DPPC Intake Operators staff the Hotline between 9:00 AM and 5:00 PM on business days. An after-hours vendor contracted, trained, and monitored by DPPC staff, answers the Hotline after 5:00 PM and before 9:00 AM on business days. The vendor also answers the Hotline on weekends and holidays. During the time that the after-hours vendor answers the Hotline there are DPPC staff members readily available to manage emergency or complicated situations. Bilingual (Spanish – English) Intake Operators are available to take abuse reports, and all staff members are trained to communicate via TTY and to utilize Verizon’s Telecommunication Relay Service. Staff members working on the DPPC Hotline are responsible for receiving, documenting and evaluating information provided by reporters. DPPC management reviews each report of abuse to determine the response needed to ensure the safety of the individuals involved. Reports are also evaluated to determine whether the situation meets the statutory criteria that establish jurisdiction under M.G.L. c. 19C.
The statutory criteria require that the victim of the alleged abuse must:
- Be between the ages of 18 and 59 years,
- Be disabled by means of intellectual/developmental disability, mental illness or physical disability, and
- Require the assistance of a caregiver to accomplish daily living needs as a result of the disability.
To establish jurisdiction, the Hotline staff must also examine the nature of the incident. DPPC’s enabling statute, M.G.L. c. 19C, and the DPPC regulations, 118 CMR, require that the incident must:
- Include an act or omission by a caregiver and
- Result in a serious physical or emotional injury.
Information gathered by Hotline staff is entered into the DPPC database. The information is available for review each time a subsequent report is made involving a particular individual, alleged abuser or program. All relevant information is documented on a DPPC Intake form and is forwarded to an investigator in situations that meet DPPC’s jurisdictional criteria.
If a reported situation does not meet the criteria to establish jurisdiction under M.G.L. c. 19C, a copy of the DPPC Intake form is forwarded, for review and action, to the service agency appropriate to the individual’s age or disability.
A member of the State Police Detective Unit (SPDU) assigned to the DPPC reviews every report made to the DPPC Hotline. The review by the SPDU is to determine whether the information suggests a crime may have occurred and whether a criminal investigation is necessary. Suspected criminal activity is reported by the SPDU to the appropriate District Attorney’s office for their review and action as needed.
The DPPC statute provides that any caregiver that is a state agency or subdivision of the Commonwealth or private agency contracting with the Commonwealth shall immediately orally notify the DPPC and local law enforcement of the death of any person under their care. A written report of such deaths must also be forwarded to DPPC within 24 hours of the death. Each report of a death is entered into a database specifically for this purpose. This information is assessed to make a determination of whether the cause of death may be related to abuse, and if so, an investigation is conducted.
The goal of the DPPC Hotline is to provide every citizen of the Commonwealth a resource to which they can report suspected abuse of persons with disabilities. DPPC trains its staff to be efficient, effective, and courteous so that reporters can feel positive about their decision to report what they suspect to be abuse or neglect.
The DPPC receives reports of abuse from various sources. Some reporters of abuse are mandated, required by law, to make reports of suspected abuse to the DPPC.
What is a mandated reporter?
Mandated reporters are persons who, as a result of their profession, are more likely to be aware of abuse or neglect of persons with disabilities. Mandated reporters are required by law to report cases of suspected abuse to DPPC when they have a suspicion that a person with a disability is being abused or neglected. Other persons who are not mandated to report may choose to file reports of suspected abuse.
Who are mandated reporters?
- Educational Administrators
- Employees of private agencies providing services to people with disabilities
- Employees of state agencies in the Executive Office of Health & Human Services
- Daycare Workers
- Foster Parents
- Family Counselors
- Guidance Counselors
- Medical Examiners
- Medical Personnel
- Police Officers
- Probation Officers
- Public and Private School Teachers
- Social Workers
What is reportable?
The standard for reporting suspected abuse and neglect is “reasonable cause to believe” which means that mandated reporters need only a "mere suspicion" that abuse or neglect was committed against a person with a disability.
Mandated reporters are also required to report to the DPPC all cases in which an individual with a disability has died, regardless of whether or not abuse or neglect is suspected.
Protection for mandated reporters
Mandated reporters are immune from civil or criminal liability as a result of filing a report of alleged abuse of a person with a disability. Non-mandated reporters are also protected providing the report was made in good faith. If a mandated reporter is retaliated against by their employer for filing an alleged report of abuse, or by participating in the DPPC investigation, DPPC will conduct an investigation into the retaliation. Such retaliation is a crime and is punishable by up to $1,000.00 fine, or up to one (1) year in jail, or both.
Consequences for not reporting
The failure to report can result in severe consequences for the alleged victim, other potential victims, and the mandated reporter. Victims of abuse and neglect are at increased risk of further abuse, if it goes unreported. The frequency and severity of abuse and neglect are likely to increase over time if no intervention is made. A failure to intervene by not reporting will likely result in other individuals being abused and neglected. In Massachusetts, mandated reporters can be fined up to $1,000 for failure to report incidences of suspected abuse and neglect of individuals with disabilities.