(TRENTON) - Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Pamela Lampitt, Gabriela Mosquera and Valerie Vainieri Huttle to help gain an accurate picture of the challenges facing caregivers in New Jersey and ways in which the state can improve support was advanced by an Assembly panel on Thursday.
Specifically, the bill (A-4026) would establish the "New Jersey Caregiver Task Force" to evaluate caregiver support services in the state, and provide recommendations for the improvement and expansion of such services.
"If you haven't been in a position to serve as a caregiver to anyone, you can't even imagine the types of challenges they face today," said Lampitt (D-Camden/Burlington). "The physical, emotional and financial requirements can be overwhelming. Our goal is to accurately gauge their needs so we can determine where and how the state can step up to offer support."
"Caregiver support services" is defined under the bill as any type of support or assistance available to caregivers in the state, including, but not limited to, financial support or assistance from any source, and any other types of support or assistance provided by public or private employers, hospitals, health care providers or organizations, or government agencies.
"Most people who are providing caregiving services are doing so selflessly and with the weight of many responsibilities on their shoulders," said Mosquera (D-Camden/Gloucester). "Often times the financial strain combined with the physical requirements can be extremely stressful. As a state, we should be doing all we can to help ease these demands."
"The needs of caregivers may vary greatly depending on whether they are caring for someone who has physical or mental disabilities," said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). "This task force would be comprised of a diverse group of individuals who have the expertise and insight to help us formulate a plan to improve the compassionate delivery of caregiving services."
The task force would consist of nine members, including the Commissioner of Human Services, the President of the New Jersey chapter of the American Association of Retired Persons, the Executive Director of Caregivers of New Jersey, the Executive Director of the Arc of New Jersey, the Executive Director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness New Jersey, and the President of the Alzheimer's Association Greater New Jersey Chapter, or their designees; and three public members appointed by the Governor.
The public members would include one person who is a caregiver for a person with a disability, one person who is a caregiver for a person with mental illness, and one person who is a caregiver for an elderly person.
The task force would be authorized to solicit, receive, and expend any grant money or other funds that may be made available for its purposes.
The task force would be required by the bill to:
- identify existing caregiver support services available in the state;
- identify and survey caregivers in the state, in order to develop an aggregate summary of caregiver characteristics, which would indicate the total number of caregivers in the state; the number of caregivers in each of the northern, central, and southern regions of the state; the average age of caregivers; the average time spent per week engaged in caregiving activities; the average total period of time spent in the caregiver role; the average amount of paid and unpaid leave time taken off work to engage in caregiving activities; the nature and severity of illnesses or conditions suffered by the persons being cared for; and the existing support services that are most commonly used by caregivers; and
- solicit testimony from caregivers on the nature and type of tasks performed, the feasibility of task delegation, the availability and sufficiency of caregiver training programs, the costs associated with caregiving, the availability and sufficiency of financial support services, the availability and sufficiency of respite care services, and the practical experiences of caregivers in relation to their requests for, or receipt of support services, their interactions with government agencies, hospitals, health care providers and organizations, and public or private employers in relation to caregiving matters, and the use of medical leave for caregiving purposes.
The task force would be required to submit a report, to both the governor and legislature, containing its findings on the issues described above, and providing recommendations for legislation, or for regulatory or programmatic changes, that would be necessary to improve, expand, or supplement existing caregiver support service programs and systems in the state, in response to caregiver concerns. The report would need to be submitted within 12 months after the task force's organization, and the task force would dissolve, and the bill's provisions would expire, on the 30th day following the report's submission.
The bill was approved by the Assembly Health and Senior Services Committee.