CHD’s Human Rights System
The Center for Human Development (CHD) is committed to creating a system of safeguards to affirm, promote and protect the human, legal, and civil rights of the people it supports. When this commitment is fulfilled individuals are engaged, to the maximum extent feasible, in directing their own lives. This system also helps individuals overcome obstacles to leading more vital and satisfying lives in more typical settings, and to be free from abuse and mistreatment.
Definition of Rights:
In a broad sense, rights are often classified as human, legal, and civil.
- Human Rights are claims on society for things which all people are entitled to have and enjoy.
For example, some of those rights are defined in the “U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Mentally Retarded Persons” which stresses not only personal security against “exploitation, abuse, and degrading treatment”, but rights to gain basic services with appropriate accommodations to individual differences.
“The Universal Declaration of Human Rights” states that recognizing the dignity and equal “rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice, and peace in the world.”
- Legal Rights are claims on particular persons or agencies for the enjoyment of rights which have been created by legislatures, courts, regulators, or parties to a contract. DMH and DDS regulations, federal court decrees, and state and federal statutes, for instance, provide sources of detailed rules on the care and habilitation of persons with mental health or developmental disabilities.
- Civil Rights are a category of legal rights that belong to persons by virtue of their citizenship in a state or county. The “Americans with Disabilities Act” protect people with disabilities from discrimination. People with mental health or developmental disabilities have asserted such civil rights as the rights of protection of the laws, voting, non-discriminatory access to public services and accommodations, and other benefits of citizenship that an individual is qualified to exercise.
The parts of this system that work together to create an effective whole include:
Every person supported by CHD is to live in an environment filled with dignity and respect, and free from discrimination. They also have a responsibility to promote human rights. They could do this in any number of ways, like reporting any abuse or mistreatment they witness, or experience, or by speaking out, in whatever way possible, on their choices or preferences.
Every family member and guardian should treat each individual with dignity and respect in their relationships and in their advocacy. The special place of families in the lives of individuals should also be respected and valued, even when conflict arises between or with family members. Guardians should work to include individuals in decisions as much as possible and control only those issues assigned to them by the court. All should be familiar with the indicators of abuse and watch for any signs that may be present.
Every friend, neighbor and employer should treat each individual with dignity and respect. Community relations with neighbors, employers, friends, civic and religious groups, etc., should be nurtured so that all learn to treat individuals the same as they would all others. This would include the choice to socialize with each other, do business together and help in times of trouble.
Every employee of CHD and every provider agency employee is responsible for treating each individual served with dignity and respect. Everyone has a responsibility to help individuals understand their rights and exercise them. Employees should also be watchful to identify the potential for abuse before it happens and prevent it. They also must stop any abuse or mistreatment they witness, ensure the safety and health of the victim and report the incident.
The Human Rights Officers are appointed by agency directors and are responsible for human rights training and support for individuals and their families. They offer advice, information and guidance to direct support staff on human rights issues. They also must seek out opportunities for individuals to exercise their rights. Overall, officers are trained to use their eyes and ears and knowledge to support the fulfillment of rights wherever individuals live, work or play.
Each agency delegates a staff person to serve as its Human Rights Coordinator. The coordinator provides administrative support to its Human Rights Committee (HRC). The coordinator acts as liaison to the HRC and follows up on questions and concerns of the committee and ensures the committee has the information it needs to do its job. The coordinator also reports to the committee on efforts to meet its human rights training responsibilities. The other primary function of the coordinator is to oversee and support the work of the agency’s human rights officers. Please call Ken Morey at (413) 439-2254 if you would like further information.
The Human Rights Committee (HRC) has a broad mandate to affirm, promote and protect the human rights of the people we support. CHD’s Committee Members are:
- Roger Anderson (Clinician)
- Laura Mangini (Attorney)
- Jeanne Kaiser (Attorney)
- Kristen Sanders-Ayinde (Nurse)
- Kristen Serwicki (Clinical Member)
- Tim Cheeks (Committee Member)
- Steven Cray (Committee Member)
What is a Human Rights Committee?
A Human Rights Committee (HRC) is a group of persons, comprised of individuals not affiliated with a program, which is established for the purpose of protecting the rights of persons supported by CHD.
What are the major responsibilities of HRCs?
The major responsibilities of an HRC are to review, monitor, and advise regarding the activities of the program with regard to human, legal, and civil rights of the persons supported by the program.
These include but are not limited to the review and approval of behavior plans, oversight of restraint orders and complaints and investigations, review medication plans, advising their agency director on policies and procedures of the agency and their compliance with human rights regulations, visit sites on a regular basis and ensure training is occurring as appropriate. These reviews promote habilitation and growth and ensure that treatment is delivered in the least restrictive and most typical setting possible, and in the least intrusive manner. They also ensure that consent is truly informed.
What is the role of the HRC?
There are four roles an HRC may assume:
- An HRC may act as an Agent for Change by assisting the program in identifying areas in which improvement can be made;
- An HRC may advise a program by reviewing and monitoring program practices and procedures and making recommendations to the program of methods to further promote the rights of individuals served by the program;
- An HRC may act as an Advocate by encouraging the development of services that foster the expression and exercise of rights by individuals served by the program;
- An HRC may act as an Investigative Body by conducting informal inquiries as needed or by monitoring the quality of investigation conducted by the program or the Department.
What are the members of the HRC?
An HRC generally consists of consumers, parents, advocates, a nurse, allied health professionals and an attorney or paralegal. All members should have experience and knowledge relevant to the duties of the Committee. The Committee is appointed by the head of the program.
Children’s Service Agencies have ombudspersons offices for inquiries about DCF programs, policies for service delivery. Adult Service Agencies have additional layers in their system.
The Human Rights Specialists staff the Office for Human Rights and provide training, technical assistance and advocacy, to all parts of the provider and Departmental community, including families and individuals. Specialists don’t make decisions for others, but can advocate like ombudspersons using the chain of command to help families, friends and individuals understand complex situations, or get answers to concerns about their experiences. They are also a key consultant and partner to the regional and area directors and their staff in safeguarding the rights of individuals (such as support to Service Coordinators who safeguard the voice of individuals in decision-making). Specialists bring fresh eyes to help staff to think through tough questions and frame approaches to difficult issues. The specialists foster statewide consistency in focusing the system on the needs and rights of the individual.
The Office for Human Rights (OHR) is the lead administrative entity in central office responsible for providing support and oversight to the human rights system. It also has been delegated the performance of the Commissioner’s review of restraints, and provides periodic statistical updates on the use of restraints statewide. OHR also serves as a point of entry for obtaining resolution to confusion or conflict over rules and regulations affecting the human rights of individuals. As a member of the staff of the Commissioner’s office, The Director of the Office for Human Rights safeguards the interests of individuals, in development of policies and practices of the Department and in oversight of the monitoring and advocacy of Specialists.
The Human Rights Advisory Committee (HRAC) represents all the constituencies of the Department and advises the Commissioner on significant human rights policies and concerns. HRAC ensures that individual rights are protected within the policies and practices of the Department. Committee members are linked through local involvement and HRAC is available to respond as a group to HRC requests for assistance when policies or procedures give them concern. HRAC has a formal role in the design of human rights training. They also provide guidance and support to the Director of the Office for Human Rights, who staffs their committee.
(Taken from DDS System for Safeguarding Human Rights & Community Human Rights Committees and Officers Fact Sheet)