Vainieri Huttle, Lagana, Eustace & Caride Bill to Provide Better Oversight at Bergen Regional Medical Center Clears Committee

Legislation Prompted by Reports of Violence against Patients and Staff; Weak Oversight at New Jersey's Largest Hospital

(TRENTON) - An Assembly panel on Thursday released legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Joseph Lagana, Tim Eustace and Marlene Caride to allow Bergen County to create a hospital authority to ensure proper oversight and quality of care at Bergen Regional Medical Center, which has been besieged by allegations of violence against patients and staff.

The bill (A-3951) is in response to a media report that revealed hundreds of alleged assaults logged by Bergen County Police and a federal investigation prompted by attacks on eight workers at the Bergen Regional Medical Center in Paramus. The hospital, which provides long-term care, psychiatric and substance-abuse treatment and acute care, is owned by Bergen County but operated by a private for-profit company. The hospital is the largest hospital in the state with 1,000 beds. 

"The incidents cited are deeply troubling and show a serious lapse in oversight," said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). "Creating an entity solely dedicated to the management of the hospital will help ensure that staff can provide and patients can receive the care they need."

"As the state's largest hospital, Bergen Regional is responsible for the care of a great number of patients who deserve better than what was alleged in that report," said Lagana (D-Bergen/Passaic). "This bill will help curtail the mismanagement that allowed such unsafe occurrences to persist."

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Schaer, Vainieri Huttle, Chiaravalloti & Caride Bill to Increase Protections for Young Persons with Developmental Disabilities Receiving State Services Continues Advancing

The Assembly Budget Committee on Thursday approved legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Gary Schaer, Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Nicholas Chiaravalloti and Marlene Caride to provide protections for children under the age of 18 with developmental disabilities and individuals with developmental disabilities ages 18 to 21 receiving services from Division of Children's System of Care. 

"With regards to abuse and neglect, the law fails to provide statutory provisions for our most vulnerable residents," said Schaer (D-Bergen/Passaic). "The legislation rectifies this oversight by requiring the state to institute regulations and monitor closely care service providers within the division as well as community providers."

Currently, there are no statutory provisions that specifically mandate DCF to conduct a child abuse registry check on a person seeking employment at DCF, in facilities or programs licensed, contracted, regulated, or funded, as applicable, by DCF or DHS or seeking to provide community-based services to individuals with developmental disabilities. Additionally, there are no regulatory provisions prohibiting a person included on the registry from obtaining such employment or providing such community-based services. 

"There must be clear procedures in place to address complaints of abuse regarding children with developmental disabilities," said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). "It is essential for their protection and for ensuring the proper care of the state's most vulnerable citizens. This legislation is long overdue and absolutely necessary going forward." 

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Coughlin, Vainieri Huttle, Danielsen & Wimberly Bill Ensuring Patients with Disabilities Can Physically Access Doctors' Offices Continues Advancing

Measure Would Require Certain Insurance Companies to Include Accessible Doctors for Patients with Physical Disabilities

(TRENTON) - Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Craig Coughlin, Valerie Vainieri Huttle and Joseph Danielsen ensuring that people with physical disabilities have access to doctors in their insurance network whose offices are physically accessible was released last week by a Senate panel.

"It's important that a critical area like healthcare is fully accessible," said Coughlin (D-Middlesex). "While many professional buildings are fully accessible these days, not all of them are. This will help provide another measure of independence for individuals with disabilities." 

The bill (A-1933) would ensure that individuals with physical disabilities, who have health insurance through a managed care plan, have reasonable access to primary care and specialist providers whose professional offices are accessible in accordance with standards for design under the federal Americans with Disability Act of 1990 (ADA). 

"This measure is long overdue," said Vainieri Huttle (D- Bergen). "Making sure that a patient with a disability has access to doctors whose offices are physically accessible is a consideration that every insurance company should take into account."

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Schaer, Vainieri Huttle, Lampitt, Mosquera, Sumter & Wimberly "Breakfast after the Bell' Bill Continues Advancing

Measure Would Establish an Incentive Fund for the School Breakfast Program

(TRENTON) - Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Gary Schaer, Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Pamela Lampitt, Gabriela Mosquera, Shavonda Sumter and Benjie Wimberly to create an incentive fund to support the Breakfast after the Bell program was released Monday by a Senate committee. 

The sponsors said the purpose of the fund is to provide an incentive for the school districts to move to a school breakfast model that will reach more students. They also note in the bill that low- to middle-income school districts face more fiscal challenges in covering the cost of effective breakfast programs.

The bill is part of efforts by Assembly Democrats to lift people out of poverty and rebuild New Jersey's middle-class. 

"Breakfast after the Bell is one of the most important programs offered to students in our school districts," said Schaer (D-Bergen/Passaic). "A fund will encourage schools to adopt a model that will feed more students in the school year and continue to prepare children for their day of learning."

"An incentive fund will support school breakfast models that will benefit children now and in the future," said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). "The goal is for more of New Jersey's children to be able to participate in Breakfast after the Bell."

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Vainieri Huttle Bill to Ensure Substance Abuse Education in Schools Includes Latest Evidence-Based Standards & Practices Clears Assembly Panel

(TRENTON) - Legislation sponsored by Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen) to ensure substance abuse education in New Jersey schools includes the most up-to-date information available was released Monday by an Assembly committee. 

"We cannot effectively reach young people about the dangers of substance abused with outdated information," said Vainieri Huttle. "Substance abuse among young people is a serious concern and, without proper intervention, can lead to lifetime addiction or worse. "This review will help ensure that the substance abuse education that our students are getting is reliable and useful."

The bill (A-2292) requires the Department of Education to conduct a review of the Core Curriculum Content Standards in Comprehensive Health and Physical Education to ensure that substance abuse instruction incorporates the most recent evidence-based standards and practices. 

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Johnson, Vainieri Huttle & Eustace Childproof Handgun Bill Gains Assembly Panel Approval

Legislation Assembly Democrats Gordon Johnson, Valerie Vainieri Huttle and Tim Eustace sponsored to update state law to help boost the proliferation of more childproof handguns was advanced by an Assembly committee on Monday.

The bill (A-1426), which was substituted in committee, would create a roster of personalized handguns available for sale to the public and require most New Jersey gun retailers to carry them in their stores.

"Current law is intended to encourage the development of smart gun technology, but the prohibition on other handguns has, in effect, restricted consumer access to personalized handguns," said Johnson (D-Bergen). "This bill modernizes our law and is a reasonable approach to improving gun safety in our state, especially for children."

U.S. children and teens are 32 times more likely to die from a gun homicide and 10 times more likely to die from a gun suicide or a gun accident than all their peers in the other high-income countries combined.

"The status quo is unacceptable," said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). "This change will help spark the development and availability of childproof handguns in New Jersey and set a tone for the rest of the nation."

"We've seen far too many senseless deaths because of handguns accidentally getting in the hands of children," said Eustace (D-Bergen/Passaic). "The technology exists to make that an impossibility. This bill will help boost the proliferation of childproof handguns in New Jersey."

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Assembly OKs Lampitt, Vainieri Huttle, Pinkin & Mukherji Bill to Ensure Newborns are Covered Under Parents Insurance During First Few Critical Months of Life

(TRENTON) - Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Pamela Lampitt, Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Nancy Pinkin and Raj Mukherji to ensure newborns are covered under their parents insurance during the first few critical months of life was approved, 76-0, by the full Assembly on Thursday.

The bill (A-2665) extends the time period in which newborn children are covered under their parent's health benefits coverage from the current 60 days. 

"With all that's going on when a child is first born, the 30-day deadline can be problematic for some parents to meet and may cause unnecessary stress," said Lampitt (D-Camden/Burlington). "This bill will provide a longer period of time for children to be covered under their parents' health coverage in order to ensure that children have access to adequate health care during the critical first few months of life."

"Current law provides for only a month of health insurance coverage for newborns," said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). "The first three months are the most crucial in the life of a newborn. Families should not have to worry about health coverage if a problem arises before more permanent insurance is acquired."

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Eustace & Vainieri Huttle Bill to Create State Park Passport to Promote State Parks, Forests & Historic Sites in NJ Approved by Assembly

(TRENTON) - Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Tim Eustace and Valerie Vainieri Huttle to create a state park passport program to promote outdoor recreation, education, and visitation to state parks, forests, and historic sites was approved Thursday by the Assembly.

"This is a fun way of promoting our natural and historical treasures, while raising funds to support educational and recreational opportunities at state parks and forests," said Eustace (D-Bergen/Passaic). "Having a state park passport can help bring attention to our parks and historic sites, and spread the word about the natural beauty and the rich history that abounds in New Jersey." 

"New Jersey is famous for the shore, but there are a wealth of parks and historical sites that exist in our state," said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). "This is a great way to promote and support these other attractions, and incentivize more out-of-state tourists to visit New Jersey."

Under the bill, (A-2464) the Commissioner of Environmental Protection would be required to establish the state park passport. The passport would enable a visitor to collect a passport stamp from each state park, forest, and historic site visited. In addition to each park, forest, and historic site having its own passport stamp, a person would be able to obtain an annual collectible stamp. The commissioner may hold an annual competition for the design of the annual collectible stamp.

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Vainieri Huttle Bill to Create Ombudsman for Individuals with Intellectual & Developmental Disabilities Advances

Legislation sponsored by Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle creating an ombudsman to serve as an advocate for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities was approved by the Assembly Human Services Committee on Monday.

"Navigating state and federal laws and bureaucracy can be overwhelming for anyone," said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). "For those with intellectual and developmental disabilities, it can be downright frustrating, which can deter some individuals and families from accessing much-needed services that may be available to help them. This is counterproductive and in no one's best interest. By creating an ombudsman to help guide them through the state and federal labyrinth of services we can help individuals become more self-sufficient, thriving members of the community."

The bill (A-3824) would establish the independent Office of the Ombudsman for Individuals with Intellectual or Developmental Disabilities and their Families in, but not of, the Department of the Treasury.

Under the provisions of the bill, the Governor would appoint the ombudsman, who is to be qualified by training and experience to perform the duties of the office, and be recognized as someone with judgment, integrity, and objectivity who is skilled in communication, conflict resolution, and professionalism. 

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Sumter, Vainieri Huttle & Lampitt Bill to Establish Career Training Program for Low-Income Women Clears Committee

(TRENTON) - Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Shavonda Sumter, Valerie Vainieri Huttle and Pamela Lampitt to help make women more competitive in the workforce and encourage financial stability among women was advanced by an Assembly committee on Monday.

The bill (A-3717) would establish the Women's Vocational Training Pilot Program in the Department of Labor and Workforce Development (LWD) to promote the economic self-sufficiency of low-income women through increased participation in high-wage, high-demand occupations. 

"Closing the gender wage gap begins with making sure that women receive equal pay for equal work, but another important factor is making sure women have the tools they need to compete in every industry," said Sumter (D-Bergen/Passaic). "New Jersey's women already have the resilience and work ethic they need to succeed. This program will empower them with the right training and opportunities."

The purpose of the program is to improve the employability of women in nontraditional occupations through education and training. Under the bill, a nontraditional occupation is one in which women account for 25 percent or less of those employed in the field. Such occupations include: architecture, computer programming, engineering, trucking and construction.

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