N.J. Senate panel OKs bill requiring state to follow up on ex-residents of closed developmental centers

BY DUSTIN RACIOPPI The Record

A bill that would require the state to follow up on the former residents of a pair of shuttered developmental centers was approved by a Senate panel on Monday.

The bill, which has already been unanimously approved by the Assembly, would mandate the Department of Human Services conduct studies to assess the well-being of all individuals who have and will transition from the centers in Totowa and Woodbridge to the community. The center in Totowa closed last July, and Woodbridge closed last month. Both were recommended for closure by a state task force report in 2012.

"It is now our duty to make sure that their former residents have the care and opportunities they need and deserve, which is why this bill is so important," said one of its sponsors, Valerie Vainieri Huttle, D-Englewood, in a statement.

The centers had provided care for residents with "intensive needs" for developmental disabilities, as well as behavioral, mental health and medical needs, according to the state.

The well-being assessments proposed in the bill would be conducted for each of the five years after the centers' closings.

The state would examine data including an individual's, behavioral changes, self-care, mobility, ability to maintain the same level of service and support as they had at the center and contact with family members and peers. All reports would be available on the Human Services' website.

Another bill sponsor, Timothy Eustace, D-Maywood, said "This legislation is about our commitment to stand up for the rights of some of New Jersey's most vulnerable men and women."

The bill now heads to the full Senate for a vote.