The “Weight of Waiting” video was part of the Northeast Advocacy Legislative Breakfast that Incompass hosted with a coalition of other human service agencies on March 31, 2023. These are but three stories of countless ones just like it across the state and even within Incompass.
Peter Orrall and Lisa Tulipani Orrall – Northeast Arc
Judith Montes de Oca – NFI Massachusetts, Inc.
Donald Duggan Jr., and Diana Slaney-Duggan – NFI Massachusetts, Inc.
On Friday, March 31, Incompass Human Services joined eight other northeastern MA human service agencies to hold an advocacy breakfast, calling on legislators to meet the growing demands in human services. The event’s theme was the “Weight of Waiting,” which aimed to demonstrate how the lack of access to critical human services is having detrimental effects on individuals and families in the Commonwealth. The quality of life and livelihoods of the vulnerable population we support are being threatened, and we must do better.
An enormous thank you to everyone who attended and all those who continue to advocate on behalf of the population we serve. Our collective goal as part of this breakfast was to advocate for support of Governor Healy’s proposed budget and the continued need for more resources to address the needs of human services organizations and those we serve, many of who are still waiting to return to services after the pandemic.
Though events like these only happen a few times a year, advocacy never stops. Agencies like ours can’t afford to take a break while we are hearing cries from families while simultaneously coping with a staffing crisis.
Senator Joan Lovely had this to say, ” I’m honored to offer remarks at the Northeast Human Service Providers Legislative Breakfast on behalf of the #NorthShoreMA delegation to thank our human service workers for their dedication to the critical work helping assisting our most vulnerable residents. I will continue to advocate for improved wages for these valuable workers.” Her support of the bills on Beacon Hill that will lead to a living wage for all of the human service workers in the state means so much!
Incompass CEO, and event MC, Jean Phelps offered some profound words on the “Weight of Waiting” and the “profound impact of being a caregiver.” Representative Sally Kerans echoed those same sentiments while sitting on the legislative panel, “We value the legacy of people who care for our loved ones.”
The highlight of the morning was the premiere the “Weight of Waiting” video that highlighted three families from Northeast Arc, and NFI Massachusetts, Inc. There wasn’t a dry eye in the building as the families shared their struggles. Our advocacy efforts are that much more impactful when we can highlight real life stories. We are incredibly grateful to the families for sharing such vulnerable moments with us. The video will be shared separately, so be sure to check it out!
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.