Summary of H.218 and S.117
Proposed Amendments to the Disabled Persons Protection Commission’s Enabling Statute, M.G.L. c. 19C
The Disabled Persons Protection Commission’s (“DPPC”) mission is to investigate and remediate allegations of abuse and neglect of persons with disabilities (ages 18-59) by their caretakers. In the 2021-2022 Legislative Session, the DPPC seeks to amend its enabling statute, Chapter 19C, to enhance the protection and respect of persons with disabilities. The DPPC’s bill does not require any additional appropriation to implement, yet upon passage, it will strengthen the DPPC’s mission in five key ways:
- Respect: replaces the term “disabled person” with person-first language, “person(s) with a disability” throughout Chapter 19C, and changes the name of the DPPC to the Commission for the Protection of Persons with Disabilities.
- Risk Referrals: improves the DPPC’s ability to refer reports of alleged abuse to agencies within the Executive Office of Health and Human Services for the provision of protective services in situations in which there is an imminent risk of substantial harm to the person with a disability, including possible death. This amendment strengthens the DPPC’s procedures in high-risk cases by clarifying and codifying the existing practice of interagency collaboration in rare situations where protective services are urgently needed due to the strong likelihood of imminent harm to the person with a disability. This provision would be utilized in rare instances — anticipated to be less than 10 per year — to immediately respond to volatile situations when time is of the essence. The amendment creates a clear process for the provision of immediate protective services, such as emergency shelter or respite, to individuals at imminent risk of substantial harm.
- Reporting: adds to the definition of mandated reporter individuals providing services to persons with disabilities, whose professional positions make them more likely to learn of reportable conditions, in an effort to increase reporting and to explicitly provide reporting protections to these professionals.
- Records: codifies the protection of the DPPC records, which contain privileged and confidential information, to be consistent with opinions of the Supervisor of Public Records holding that the information in the DPPC’s records identifying individuals involved in DPPC investigations is not “public.” See SPR96/683 and SPR18/215. This language is similar to statutory protections afforded the same types of records held by the DPPC’s sister agency, the Executive Office of Elder Affairs and consistent with confidentiality provisions in Nicky’s Law, now Chapter 19 of the Acts of 2020.
- Remedial Revisions: the bill also makes various non-substantive changes to Chapter 19C, such as removing obsolete provisions and unnecessary verbiage so that the statute is more easily understood.