Gov. Pat McCrory signed into law on Tuesday a bill aimed at protecting group home residents from abuse in a ceremony at the Executive Mansion with the special-needs patient for whom the bill was named and his family.
“Burt’s Law” increases the penalty for those who intentionally harm special-needs adults at a facility, and it makes it a misdemeanor for people who work or volunteer there not to report sexual abuse within 24 hours.
McCrory said the law was an example of his call in his State of the State address this year to help those who can’t help themselves. The governor thanked Burt Powell for his “incredible courage,” and the two men exchanged a long hug.
“It is our responsibility to protect those who cannot defend themselves,” McCrory said. “What happened to Burt is heartbreaking, but because of his bravery, Burt’s Law will work to ensure the safety of group home residents in the future.”
Powell, 37, was sexually abused by a staffer at a home in Conover over the course of a year. The suspect later died of a heart attack. Workers knew about the abuse but didn’t report it.
His parents, Laurie and Tom Powell, pushed for a law that might protect those in similar situations. It became Senate Bill 445, which unanimously passed both chambers of the General Assembly.
Republican senators Joyce Krawiec of Kernersville, Buck Newton of Wilson and Andy Wells of Hickory were the primary sponsors, and attended Tuesday’s bill signing.