Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Pamela Lampitt, Daniel Benson, Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Cleopatra Tucker, Benjie Wimberly and Joann Downey to increase awareness of the application processes for programs and services available to New Jersey residents with developmental disabilities cleared the Assembly, 72-0, on Thursday.
"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, or the Commissioner's designee, in consultation with the Commissioner of Children and Families, the Commissioner of Community Affairs, the Commissioner of Education, the Commissioner of Labor and Workforce Development, and the Commissioner of Transportation, or their designees, to develop a timeline briefly explaining and denoting the age at which individuals with developmental disabilities may apply for 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."
"Navigating developmental services and providers can be overwhelming for families and guardians," said Downey (D- Monmouth). "With this bill, the state can make it a little easier for them to plan for the care their family member needs at any stage in life."
Information about guardianship, transportation services, housing programs and applications for adult services and federal Social Security Administration benefits would be included in the timeline.
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.