House Bill 1958 (H.1958) and Senate Bill 52 (S.52), An Act updating the terminology and investigative practices related to the protection of persons with disabilities. This bill, drafted by the DPPC and filed concurrently in the House and Senate, seeks to amend the DPPC’s enabling statute, Chapter 19C, to enhance the protection of persons with disabilities and make various administrative changes in the following ways:
- Respect: Replaces the term “disabled person” with more appropriate person-first language, “person(s) with a disability” throughout c. 19C, and changes the name of the DPPC to the Commission for the Protection of Persons with Disabilities.
- Risk Referrals: Enhances 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 serious injury to the person with a disability, including possible death. This amendment strengthens the DPPC’s ability to address these risky cases by clarifying and codifying the existing practice of interagency collaboration in rare situations where protective services are urgently needed because of the risk of imminent harm.
- Reporting: Adds to the definition of mandated reporter additional first responders and 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 an Opinion of the Supervisor of Public Records holding that certain records held by the DPPC are not “public records”. This language is similar to that in the Executive Office of Elder Affairs statute protecting records of elders, as the personally identifiable information of persons with disabilities should be explicitly afforded the same safeguards provided for the records of elders.
- Remedial Revisions: The bill also makes various non-substantive changes to c. 19C, such as removing obsolete provisions and unnecessary verbiage so that the statute is more easily understood.
Senate Bill 76 (S.76): An Act protecting disabled persons from financial exploitation. S.76 amends the DPPC’s enabling statute in the following manner:
- Seeks to extend the jurisdiction of the DPPC to include the investigation of financial exploitation of individuals with a disability by their caretakers. Currently, the DPPC is authorized to conduct investigations involving allegations of physical, sexual, and emotional abuse, and neglect, of persons with disabilities. However, unlike other Adult Protective Service agencies across the United States, and unlike the Commonwealth’s Executive Office of Elder Affairs, the DPPC does not have jurisdiction to investigate financial exploitation of persons with disabilities.
- The DPPC supports S.76 in extending the DPPC’s jurisdiction to include investigation of financial exploitation of persons with a disability by their caregivers. However, given the fiscal impact on the DPPC anticipated by this proposed statutory requirement, the DPPC’s support is conditioned upon the DPPC receiving the additional funding and staffing necessary to effectively implement this legislation.
Senate Bill 330 (S.330): An Act relative to strengthening background checks.
- S.330 would require the DPPC to share information pertaining to its investigations with the Department of Early Education and Care (“DEEC”) and Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (“DESE”), as part of the licensure and background check requirements of current and prospective employees at facilities licensed or funded by either department. Additionally, the bill would require the DPPC to notify DEEC and DESE of allegations which impact the health and safety of students at licensed facilities.
- The DPPC embraces S.330’s goal of protecting the health and well-being of school children and the DPPC encourages the inclusion of a review of the DPPC’s records as part of the vetting process of those individuals who seek to work with this population as well as the bill’s overall support of interagency information sharing. Moreover, while the implementation of the background check process envisioned by this bill would result in the expenditure of time and resources by the DPPC, the bill has provided a mechanism for allocating funding to the DPPC, through an interagency service agreement, to address the attendant administrative operating costs.
- The DPPC believes that this bill would enact several important measures designed to promote the safety of school children and persons with disabilities and the DPPC supports its passage.