(TRENTON) - Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Pamela Lampitt, Daniel Benson, Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Cleopatra Tucker and Benjie Wimberly to increase awareness of the application processes for programs and services available to New Jersey residents with developmental disabilities was advanced Monday by an Assembly panel.
"For many individuals with developmental disabilities, the ability to live independently and be economically stable depends on the ability to access the appropriate housing, transportation and the proper medical and behavioral care. Unfortunately, gaining that access can be a complex and confusing process," said Lampitt (D-Camden/Burlington). "This legislation will help ensure that residents of New Jersey who have developmental disabilities can get the services they need."
The bill (A-1449) would require the Department of Human Services to develop a timeline briefly explaining and denoting the age at which individuals with developmental disabilities may apply for various services and activities so that they may better understand when and where to apply for state and federal benefits.
"When it comes to navigating matters of guardianship, Social Security benefits, employment, education and transportation, many people with developmental disabilities and their loved ones just don't know when, how or where to begin," said Benson (D-Mercer/Middlesex). "This legislation will serve as a roadmap that will help them start these processes successfully, which is the first step toward getting what they need in a timely fashion."
"Raising a child with a developmental disability comes with a number of unique responsibilities and challenges, and all the associated paperwork and legal issues can become overwhelming," said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). "Providing a brief timeline detailing what must be done and when is a simple step that can go a long way toward alleviating stress and ensuring that all of our residents can access the appropriate help and support."
"Too often, people with developmental disabilities and their families can feel lost as they try to arrange the care and services that best suit them, particularly as they enter young adulthood," said Tucker (D-Essex). "This bill will help make the transitions much smoother as they get older and move into each new phase of life."
"We always must be mindful to care for our most vulnerable residents," said Wimberly (D-Passaic/Bergen). "This is a common sense step that we can take to accomplish that goal."
Information about guardianship, transportation services, housing programs and applications for adult services and federal Social Security Administration benefits would be included in the timeline, which DHS would create in collaboration with the Department of Children and Families, the Department of Education, the Department of Labor and Workforce Development and the Department of Transportation. The Departments of Human Services, Children and Families and Education would be required to post the timeline on their websites.
The measure was approved by the Assembly Appropriations Committee.