Today is voting day across the country, and polling stations around the nation and across our region are bustling with activity! Given the work that we do, and the hundreds of people and families we actively support, civic engagement is obviously core to our culture and mission. The work we do has a profound and positive impact on our communities!
Just a reminder that if you’re a registered voter and intend to vote today in Massachusetts, polls will be open until 8 PM and you can easily determine your polling location on the Massachusetts website. I know that a number of you have already voted, either through early voting or by mail, and you can check the status of your mail-in ballot here.
Of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the intense passion that the election cycle has generated across the political spectrum. But Incompass Human Services is a 501(c)(3) organization, meaning that our organization will never engage in politics, endorse a candidate, or support a campaign. I just want you to know that the act of voting itself is not a partisan issue, and I support your right to participate no matter which candidates you may support.
Two of the greatest aspects of this organization are our diversity and our unwavering commitment to the people we serve. We’re #CareChampions for crying out loud! And because of that, I think – no, I know – that nothing will get in our way of delivering on our mission. You have exemplified the #ForEachOther mindset that has enabled us to continue to be there for those who need us most – when they need us most.
Also, let’s not forget we’re still in the midst of a pandemic! As Dan pointed out in our bulletin on Friday, both Chelmsford and Lawrence are classified as “high-risk” communities. Governor Baker announced new restrictions just yesterday aimed to slow down the spread, as COVID-19 numbers continue to rise. So if you are voting today, please be sure that you are doing so safely. Wear a mask. Social distance. Wash your hands.
It’s an honor to lead such a talented and passionate group of Care Champions. Keep up the great work, everyone!
In all seriousness, it’s impossible to properly put in words my appreciation for the work you do. Your impact on the lives of the people you support cannot be overstated. Throughout the week, we’ll be sharing thanks and shining a spotlight on all of you, and since we can’t be together in person Al and I wanted to kick this off virtually.
LifeLinks CLASS has been faced with some incredibly difficult decisions in these past few months — decisions that greatly impact our staff and the individuals that we support. As part of The Arc of Massachusett’s #DontCutUsOut campaign, it is imperative that we act fast to ensure the continued funding of our services and supports for the I/DD community.
“Adults with autism, Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, or other intellectual and developmental disabilities served by the Department of Developmental Services (DDS) will lose services if funding and policies don’t meet the requirements of the re-opening period and thereafter.”
Richard Faucher, a passionate advocate, voiced his concerns to our local legislators in the letter below:
As you know Life Links has been a rock-solid DDS contract provider for many years. For the Cadillac of providers to lay off 140 employees, it will have a devastating effect on services whether it is day or group home services.
There is no question other providers are going to have to lay off employees and maybe close down permanently. It is estimated some of these laid-off employees will seek employment at places paying more than $15 an hour thus leaving a huge void in the provider ranks when and if things return to some kind of normalcy.
As an advocate, I urge you to see what you can do to make sure there will be funding in the next budget to continue the great services providers give to our most venerable population.
Some facts affecting those below if funding and policies do not meet the re-opening time frame and future needs.
+ 10,000 persons who receive day and employment services + 9,000 individuals in congregate living + 1,300 new students in transition from high school to adult life + Additional persons receiving Mass-Health services (these are stats from the ARC of Mass)
Not that I have to remind you all, but the Department of Developmental Disability (DDS) generates more funds back to the general fund than any other agency in the Commonwealth.
On a personal note: My brother Pete who lived in a group home in Tewksbury passed away on May 13, 2020. His passing was not from Covid-19 but other complicated medical issues. He was a fighter up to the end. He died at the age of 69, a little less than 3 months before his 70th birthday. I mention this for one reason only. Many years ago in the 50’s the life expectancy was I think less than 40-50. If it wasn’t for our families great gene pool AND the outstanding support by legislatures like yourselves who cared for the developmentally disabled throughout those years and passed legislation supporting the needs of the population giving DDS and the providers the tools to do their job, Pete would not have lived as long. The Commonwealth has come a long way, but this situation we are in today reinforces more than ever the need to fund the DDS.
Thanks so much for letting me vent…I wish you and your families stay healthy and safe..
Press release from the Office of Governor Charlie Baker and Lt. Governor Karyn Polito, dated 3/03/2020.
BOSTON – Governor Charlie Baker, Lt. Governor Karyn Polito, Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders and Department of Developmental Services (DDS) Commissioner Jane Ryder today joined advocates, legislators and family members of individuals with developmental disabilities for a ceremonial signing of An Act To Protect Persons with Intellectual or Developmental Disabilities from Abuse, also known as “Nicky’s Law.”
Administration officials were joined by Nancy Alterio, Director of the Disabled Persons Protection Commission, Leo Sarkissian, Executive Director of the Arc of Massachusetts, family members of the law’s namesake Nicky Chan, and other advocates and legislators to celebrate the enactment of the law, which establishes a new abuse registry of caregivers in Massachusetts.
The registry will be administered by the Disabled Persons Protection Commission (DPPC) – the agency tasked with protecting adults with disabilities from the abusive acts or omissions of their caregivers – who will maintain the registry’s list of any providers or caregivers with histories of substantiated abuse. Effective January 31, 2021, any individual listed on the registry cannot be hired or work for DDS or any of its licensed or funded providers throughout the state.
“Protecting individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities is vitally important, and I want to thank the family members, advocates and our legislative colleagues for their work to pass this bill,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “The new registry established in Nicky’s Law will provide an additional safeguard against abuse and further improve the safety and quality of services provided to some of the Commonwealth’s most vulnerable residents.”
On Wednesday, January 15, Nicky’s Law was unanimously passed by the Massachusetts House of Representatives with a vote of 154-0. This marks a true milestone in the disability community as it is the first law of its kind in Massachusetts that establishes a registry consisting of caretakers who have had substantiated reports of abuse brought against them.
“As a human services provider, our first responsibility is to ensure the health and safety of the individuals who we support,” says LifeLinks CLASS CEO Jean Phelps. “And it’s a responsibility that we do not take lightly.”
The newly-created registry is now a necessary tool for providers during the hiring process – allowing providers like LifeLinks CLASS to effectively screen applicants before they are given the chance to work with such a vulnerable population. “This registry completes a robust suite of pre-employment reviews, including fingerprinting, national background checks, CORI and OIG registry checks, and E-Verify. All of which help providers be able to assert that our workforce is credible and fully-vetted,” says Phelps.
This reform was inspired by the Chan family and is a story of perseverance. In 2014, the family was notified that their son, Nicky, who is on the autism spectrum, had been abused by a worker at his day program. His alleged abuser was fired and prosecuted, but ultimately found not guilty. When Nicky’s family was told that, without a conviction, there was no way to stop the caretaker from being hired at another human services agency, they tirelessly worked with community advocates and legislators to make a change.
Nicky’s Law was unanimously passed by the Senate last year, and the House revised the bill to include certain protections for those who may be wrongly accused. Once the Senate approves the new language, the bill will be passed onto Governor Baker’s desk for review.
The bill establishes a new process:
The Disabled Persons Protection Commission (DPPC) begins an investigation once an allegation of abuse is made.
The caretaker in question is notified and given the opportunity to go through a formal appeal process.
During the appeal process, the DPPC is expected to notify The Department of Developmental Services (DDS), the victim and their family as well as the caregiver’s employer.
If the report of abuse is substantiated, the caregiver’s name will be added to the registry.
The Abuse Registry Bill is an important step in breaking the unfortunate cycle of abuse that exists within the services provided to those with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Most importantly, this bill offers a beacon of hope for all of the Nicky’s of our world – that they may receive the supports they need from trusted providers without any fear. Read the full bill here.
Photo courtesy of The Arc of Massachusetts: Linda Cox, far left, is a passionate advocate for disability rights as well as being part of the Family Support team at LifeLinks CLASS.