Sen. Brian Joyce (D-Milton) on Friday supported a move by Gov. Deval Patrick in filing a motion to vacate a court order that's been in place for more than 25 years allowing the Judge Rotenberg Center in Canton to use what have been deemed as aversive therapies like electric shock treatment on disabled children.
“The governor has always been an ally when it comes to protecting these severely disabled children from the JRC’s barbaric practices,” Joyce said in a statement Friday afternoon. “This comes on the heels of the FDA’s meeting with the JRC over their use of GED shock devices that have not even been approved for use but are strapped to disabled children right now administering painful skin shocks for simple misbehaviors. It is time for this order to be vacated and to close this dark chapter in how we allow disabled people to be treated in our state.”
A settlement was reached between the JRC and the Commonwealth in 1987, allowing the continued use of aversive therapies, according to Friday's announcement. The court order was supposed to be vacated in 1988, but was extended indefinitely, as the JRC was not yet licensed one year after the order’s issuance.
At the time, the GED skin shock devices were not yet in use and aversive therapy consisted of water sprays, taste aversive therapies, muscle squeezes, spanks, pinches and restrained time outs, according to the statement on Friday.
“Our motion would vacate the 1987 court order, which is outdated and inconsistent with the current state of behavioral treatment for persons with disabilities,” said Alec Loftus, communications director for the Department of Health and Human Services, in a statement. “JRC is the only provider in the country that uses electric skin shocks to control behavior in children and adults with intellectual disabilities. In response to Governor Patrick's concerns about these treatments, the Administration filed regulations in 2011 to ban the use of aversive therapies for any student who was not already receiving them through a court-approved treatment plan. As a result, no new behavioral plans with aversive therapies have been put into place since those regulations went into effect. Our goal is to ensure that all individuals in the Commonwealth receive safe treatments, in line with best practices in the medical field, and we are optimistic that the court will rule in our favor."
Commissioners of DDS and the Department of Early Education and Care this week filed a motion to remove the court order and subject the JRC to the rules and regulations put forth by the departments, according to Friday's announcement.
In January, Joyce requested a ban on skin shock therapies at the JRC. Later in January, , aimed at requiring licensure for behavior analysts and assistant behavior analysts in an effort to further protect children with disabilities both at the JRC and across the Commonwealth.