The Assembly passed a bill Monday that would postpone the transfer of disabled patients from developmental centers to private institutions and would stop the movement of those living in out-of-state care to in-state facilities until the plan undergoes “a comprehensive investigation.”
The bill follows the death of two people who were recently transferred from state-run developmental centers. Two of New Jersey’s seven residential centers are scheduled to shut down.
Residents being cared for out of state are being pushed to move back in-state in order for New Jersey to keep federal subsidies for their care. Families are concerned that the care in New Jersey won’t be as good as what they are receiving out of state and are worried about the transfers. The bill also stops this process until its effectiveness can be evaluated.
“This is one of those bills that tests our moral obligations,” said the bill’s sponsor Valerie Vainieri Huttle, D-Englewood, adding that the bill was meant to “give pause” to the process to make sure it was working properly.
The bill passed on a vote of 62-10. About a half-dozen people seated in the gallery briefly applauded the vote. One of them was Bob Adams whose 31-year-old son Drew has lived in Woods, a non-profit residential facility in Pennsylvania, for the last 13 years and receives one-on-one care.
Drew had meningitis when he was three and is now blind, unable to communicate and suffers from seizures.
“If he has to return … we looked,” said Adams adding that he has done 12 “meet and greets” at New Jersey facilities but none have looked like a good place with the same level of care for Drew.
Huttle said it was the legislature’s job to be compassionate about the families who were impacted by the transfers of their loved ones.
"We need to protect our state’s most vulnerable and make sure patient care is not disrupted or mishandled,” Huttle said in a statement “A comprehensive and transparent evaluation of the closure process will help to ensure that there are no more tragedies like the ones that have been reported. A moratorium is needed to make sure that every resident is safely and appropriately cared for.”
The legislation must also pass the Senate before it would head to Governor Christie’s desk. Christie’s administration has pushed for the transfer rules.