Joyce, Scibak's shock therapy bills reported favorably out of committee; headed to Senate

BOSTON, MA –Senator Brian A. Joyce and Representative John W. Scibak today announced that the Joint Committee on Children, Families, and Persons with Disabilities reported out favorably S.45 An Act relative to Level IV Treatment Interventions and S.46 An Act Creating a Special Commission on Behavior Modification. Both bills will provide further oversight and regulation to the use of aversive therapy in Massachusetts.
S.45 is designed to create a set of unified standards across all publicly operated and/or funded agencies/providers who utilize aversive therapy (shock therapy) techniques to reduce challenging behavior. These standards will specify the scope of techniques permissible under statute and regulations, and will provide for future review and monitoring of individuals’ to ensure the health, safety, privacy, dignity, and human rights of all who have behavior plans in place.
S.46 is a companion bill, which would create a special commission to investigate the current status of aversive therapy usage in the Commonwealth and the policies and procedures in place for governing their use. The bill would also establish a single state-wide Peer Review Committee that would be charged with the approval and oversight of all aversive therapy interventions.
The bills have the support of numerous civil rights groups, behaviorists, and disability advocates including the ACLU and the Disability Law Center.
In Joyce’s own district, much attention has been given to the Judge Rotenburg Center (JRC) in Canton, which is thought to be the only facility in the country that uses electric shock therapy to curtail behavior. In 2007, the State launched a criminal investigation into an incident where a prank phone call to the school led to the repeated electric shocking of two individuals in the dead of night. Last October 2009, the JRC made headlines again when the Boston Globe reported that Director Matthew Israel was fined by the Massachusetts Division of Professional Licensure for allowing 14 unlicensed clinicians at the school to use the title “psychologist”. And most recently, the United States Department of Justice launched an official investigation into the JRC which was initiated in response to a September 30th letter of complaint from 31 disability advocacy groups from across the nation.
"I am ecstatic that the Committee has taken the appropriate steps to regulate this barbaric practice,” said Senator Joyce. “We owe it to our future generations to protect each and every life and ensure that human rights are not abused.”
“There are a small number of individuals whose self injury and aggression is so dangerous as to be life threatening. When less restrictive interventions have been tried and failed, clinicians sometimes have to resort to aversive therapy. That is why I am pleased to see that the Joint Committee on Children and Families have reported out favorably two bills which will establish greater safeguards and oversight regarding the use of aversive therapy and establish a commission to develop a unified set of standards regarding the use of these procedures across all agencies and programs regulated by the Commonwealth,” said Representative Scibak.
Joyce and Scibak, the former Director of Psychology at Belchertown State School, have pushed for the passage of common-sense aversive therapy legislation for several years.
The bills now head to the Senate for further action.