N.J. Legislature must fully restore property tax relief

By Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Stephanie Hunsinger and Melissa Chalker

Susan Sherman’s family has been in New Jersey since 1850, once proud operators of the historic Daniel Bermes Boulevard Brewery. Susan is a nurse; she would normally be on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic but she is not working because her husband is ill and she cannot afford to risk bringing the disease home.

The emotional and financial burdens she and her husband are experiencing due to COVID-19 were exacerbated when they lost their Homestead Benefit credit due to state budget cuts this summer. It’s already a struggle to be a homeowner in New Jersey – with the state’s highest property taxes in the nation – and now this lifeline that was helping to keep their beloved home and community was suddenly gone.

The Sherman’s story is not unique. So it was very welcome news when, in August, Gov. Phil Murphy proposed restoring the Homestead Benefit and Senior Freeze property tax relief programs as part of the state budget that will begin on Oct. 1. Now, it is up to the Legislature to adopt the governor’s proposal and take it one step further to ensure the Sherman’s and the thousands of other families who depend on property tax relief programs get the help they need.

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Wear a mask or face a fine - or jail

By Ralph Caputo and Valerie Vainieri Huttle

As Gov. Phil Murphy carefully reopens New Jersey’s economy, these measures are often accompanied by mask mandates – requiring masks to be worn in hair and nail salons, grocery stores and other indoor facilities.

In the midst of a global pandemic that has killed nearly 14,000 New Jerseyans and more than 155,000 people nationwide, there should be no debate whether or not we should all wear masks.

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For those in nursing homes ‘we must do better’ next time, legislators say

As we all begin to cautiously emerge from our homes and attempt to return to normalcy – we cannot help but notice those we have lost and face the reality that they are gone. COVID-19 did not just take our loved ones away from us, it took away our ability to comfort them in their last days and it took away many of the things we would normally do to honor their life and process their death.

For those who loved someone in a long-term care facility, this feeling is only amplified. It wasn’t just the week before their loved one was hospitalized with severe COVID-19 symptoms, in some cases it had been months since they last held their loved one’s hand. The death toll in these facilities - among both residents and their direct caregivers – was devastating.

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We must combat senior isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic. Here's why

Every May we celebrate Older Americans Month, an opportunity to celebrate the contributions of older adults and shine a light on the issues most impacting our older generations. This year, in light of the outbreak of COVID-19, we must focus on the unanticipated needs of seniors as we continue to navigate through this crisis, a public health emergency that has impacted older adults more than most.

The spread of coronavirus in our communities has left a destructive path, not only one of grief and loss but also one of isolation and alienation, particularly for older adults.

Senior isolation is a complex issue that intimately intertwines both public and mental health. And, like so many of the obstacles impacting seniors, incidents of isolation have never been higher.

The outbreak of COVID-19 has escalated incidents of isolation among older adults, especially those in congregate living facilities.  The risks of senior isolation can be fatal.

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To combat hate crime, ‘let us say and do more’

On Sunday, Jan. 5, tens of thousands of people crowded Lower Manhattan in a show of solidarity against anti-Semitism, intolerance and violence.

By the early afternoon, the Brooklyn Bridge was packed shoulder to shoulder with demonstrators who stood together in unity with the Jewish community.

These violent attacks, from Jersey City to Monsey and beyond, have shaken the Jewish community in New Jersey and around the nation. However, as the rate of bias crimes continues to rise, so does the size of the crowds responding, calling out for more inclusivity and respect. Our voices are only getting louder. 

But with 569 bias incidents reported in 2018 in New Jersey alone, speaking out cannot be the only solution. Amidst the omnipresent rise in hate crime, we need to not only say more, but do more. We need to show the world that this is not who we are, but more than anything, we need to take action.

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Opioid Crisis: New Treatment Tactics Emerge

By Robert J. Budosck and Valerie Vainieri Huttle

Seat belts.  Bicycle helmets.  Designated drivers.  These and other common harm reduction tactics and strategies are almost universally accepted and have resulted in a drastic reduction of injuries and countless lives saved.  In that same vein, those of us in the drug treatment and recovery world have been investigating and trialing harm reduction strategies that have the potential to save lives, but perhaps more importantly, can start many on a path toward long-term recovery.

We’re all aware of the harm and potential for overdose death associated with illicit drug use.  It’s become a national epidemic. But previous tactics, from “just say no” to harsh prison sentences, have done virtually nothing to slow the rate of overdose deaths.  It’s time that we try new approaches – and document their effectiveness to create evidence-based tactics that prove successful.

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In Open Letter To Rape Victim, Vainieri Huttle Says Judge Should Resign

Dear “Mary”,

I, like so many, read a recent New York Times article detailing the two separate ways in which you have been brutalized: once by a rapist and once by a misogynistic judge.

In 2016 Brock Turner was given a meager sentence for the rape of a young, unconscious woman behind a dumpster. The Judge expressed regret that the trial could impede his successful career as a Division 1 swimmer. That same year, an Ocean County judge informed a rape victim that she should have attempted to “close her legs” during her attack.

Unfortunately, you alone are not the only woman to face an injustice of this magnitude at the hands of the criminal justice system. Unfortunately, you are one of the many whose suffering was deepened due to the misogyny, insensitivity and disregard of our justice system.

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Finding New Ways to Combat NJ’s Opioid Crisis

Drug overdose is now the leading cause of accidental death in the U.S. More than 700,000 Americans die of drug overdoses each year, and everyday more than eight people die alone in New Jersey. That to say, that, often times, overdose deaths occur in the shadows, where many victims die alone. In New Jersey and around the country, families and communities are being devastated by this crisis. Something more must be done.

The Murphy administration has done its part in committing to fighting the opioid epidemic. New Jersey has improved its Medicaid regulations to make opioid treatment more accessible for Medicaid recipients and the state continues to invest in treatments and programs to help those struggling with addiction. Meantime, in partnership with pharmacies across the state, the Department of Human Services will be providing naloxone, also referred to as narcan -- the opioid overdose reversal drug -- for free at participating pharmacies. This is an incredible initiative that will help save lives – but it is not enough.

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Honoring the Women of our Time

We are currently witnessing a gender revolution, what some may call social upheaval — I like to call it a long time coming. The election of Donald Trump in 2016 has ignited many, peeling away at the apathy that many in the progressive movement have deferred to. This new wave of political engagement, especially among women, has sparked movements across the country calling for transparency in government, justice for victims of sexual violence and a push to bring more women into positions of power in our governing bodies.

From the Women’s March to #MeToo and March for Our Lives, women are speaking out and for once it feels like people are listening. In November, we saw 117 women elected to Congress, bringing the total number to 127 women serving in the 116th Congress. This new class is younger and more diverse than ever, their election takes a significant step forward in ensuring that our representatives look like the people they represent.

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NJ’s LGBT curriculum ‘accurate, inclusive, and respectful’

Huttle: NJ’s LGBT curriculum ‘accurate, inclusive, and respectful’

“Way to go, New Jersey – you change history and now it’s Adam and Steve instead of Adam and Eve.”

“I’m not for it. Either way, how I raise my kids is my business, not the school’s or government’s.”

“It’s so dumb. How about you teach the kids real history?”

These are examples of criticisms facing the new LGBT-inclusive curriculum law in New Jersey. Just recently, Gov. Phil Murphy made New Jersey the second state in the nation to require boards of education to adopt school curriculum that accurately portrays the contributions of persons with disabilities and the LGBT community.

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