Mass Governor to Sign Bill at Fenway Protecting People with Disabilities from Out-of-State Criminals

Two other major pieces of disability legislation will be signed Thursday at ceremonial event

BOSTON, Oct. 20, 2014 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- At Fenway Park on Thursday, Oct. 23, disability advocates will gather for the ceremonial signing of the MDSC's top priority bill - the National Background Check (NBC) Bill.

The legislation, which Governor Patrick officially signed into law over the summer, will have a profound effect on protecting and providing more opportunities for our loved ones with Down syndrome for many years to come. (Two other major pieces of disability legislation, the Real Lives Bill and the Autism Omnibus, will also be part of the signing ceremony. The MDSC was a staunch supporter of the Real Lives Bill.)

The public is invited to join us for this momentous public occasion by emailing

"This law will go a long way toward protecting our loved ones with Down syndrome for many years to come," said MDSC Executive Director Maureen Gallagher. "The MDSC, along with other advocacy organizations, has been fighting for the passage of this critical piece of legislation for many years."

For Paul Willenbrock, the father of an adult daughter with a developmental disability, the bill's passage into law will have a very real impact on his family. "With the Governor's signature, adults with developmental disabilities and their parents, guardians or loved ones will be able to sleep more comfortably, with a smile on their faces, knowing that important, vulnerable adults are safer from abuse," said Willenbrock, who also serves on the Arc of Massachusetts' government affairs committee.

Gallagher credited the tireless efforts of everyone involved. The bill had broad support from advocacy groups, government agencies, legislative champions, the Down syndrome community and the larger community of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their loved ones.

More about the NBC Bill

Prior to the new law, individuals who apply for employment within Massachusetts to work with persons served by the Massachusetts Department of Developmental Disabilities (DDS) must undergo a Criminal Offense Registry Information (CORI) check. The CORI database is limited to a person's criminal history within Massachusetts. There was no statutory or regulatory requirement that DDS or any of its vendor agencies conduct any systematic national criminal background checks of potential employees. As such, potential employees with a criminal history documented beyond the border of Massachusetts have worked with some of our state's most vulnerable residents.

This new legislation remedies this dangerous situation by requiring a national check of candidates who apply for positions working with individuals served by DDS. Criminal background verification will be determined by cross-referencing fingerprint data with The Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System, more commonly known as IAFIS, a national fingerprint and criminal history system maintained by the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) Division. The IAFIS provides automated fingerprint search capabilities, latent searching capability, electronic image storage, and electronic exchange of fingerprints and responses. Before an individual is hired to work with a person served by DDS, they must undergo this screening.

About the MDSC

As we have over the past three decades, the MDSC continues to ensure that all individuals in Massachusetts with Down syndrome are valued, included, and given every opportunity to pursue fulfilling lives. In the early years, parents met in a living room to share information about their children, provide support for each other and strategize how to educate their families, schools and communities. More than 28 years later, the MDSC has over 3,000 members, an energetic Board of Directors, a dynamic management team, and a vision to ensure that every person with Down syndrome has the opportunity to reach his or her full potential. Today, the MDSC is on the cutting edge of Down syndrome advocacy at a time when an innovative, forward-thinking vision is needed.

The MDSC offers a broad array of programs to serve people with Down syndrome and their families throughout the state, including: our signature Parent's First Call Program, a volunteer, state-wide group of trained parent mentors available 24/7 that is a national model; two major annual conferences that draw national and international experts in their fields; a Buddy Walk® Program that gives individuals, schools, community groups, and local businesses an opportunity to get involved in fundraising campaigns and events year-round;  Self-Advocate Programs like Advocates in Motion and our Self-Advocate Advisory Council, which provide opportunities for teens and adults with Down syndrome while making empowerment a central component. 

Photos accompanying this release are available at:

Prenatal Bill signing Fenway

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