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Commisioner howeBy DDS Commissioner Elin Howe

Many of you may be familiar with the mission and work of the Department of Developmental Services but may be less familiar with the Department’s Office for Human Rights (OHR). This important office oversees a system of safeguards to affirm, promote and protect the human and civil rights of the people that the Department supports. OHR ensures that DDS clients are engaged to the greatest extent possible in directing their own lives and is dedicated to helping individuals overcome obstacles so they may lead vibrant, satisfying lives. OHR provides support and oversight to the Department's human rights agenda, and works with other offices and divisions across state government to identify and clarify rules and regulations that affect individual human rights.

The core values of our Human Rights agenda include rights of:

  • Dignity
  • Self-determination
  • Habilitative Care and Competent Treatment
  • Communication
  • Relationships
  • Privacy
  • Personal Safety
  • Personal Property
  • Education
  • Employment
  • Compensation
  • Community Membership

OHR stands firmly on the principle that individuals have the right to be treated with respect and must have the opportunity to make meaningful choices and informed decisions about their lives. Individuals have the right to privacy in numerous areas including: during care of their personal needs; in all forms of communication; during personal visits within one’s home and personal space, and confidentiality with the exchange of their individual information. All DDS clients have the right to equal access to opportunities for education and employment; and all individuals who are employed have the right to be fairly compensated for the work that they do.

Each DDS client is appointed a Human Rights Officer who is responsible for managing trainings and support for the client and his or her family on issues related to community living and issues at home. These officers also offer advice, information, and guidance to direct DDS staff on human rights issues. The Department also works within Human Rights Committees to help service providers determine how they will affirm, promote, and protect the human and civil rights of DDS clients. These committees also monitor and review the activities of providers to ensure that these rights are preserved. Human Rights Committees are fully empowered under Department regulations to take action as needed to uphold these rights, particularly as they relate to any limitation of an individual’s movement, or other restrictions being placed on an individual. There is also a statewide Human Rights Advisory Committee (HRAC) that advises me, as well as the OHR Director on efforts to fulfill the obligations of the office to protect human rights.

If you would like more information about OHR, please email the Director for Human Rights at DDS, Tom Anzer: Tom.C.Anzer@state.ma.us

 

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