Vainieri Huttle & Benson Bill to Delete Pejorative Language References to Disabled in State Law Clears Assembly Panel

(TRENTON) - An Assembly panel approved legislation on Thursday sponsored by Assembly Democrats Valerie Vainieri Huttle and Daniel Benson to remove language in state law referring to a person with developmental, cognitive, or psychiatric disabilities. 

"State law must reflect proper language use and be respectful to all communities," said Vainieri Huttle (D- Bergen). "Language plays an important role in how individuals see themselves and others. By removing antiquated and offensive terms from our statutes we are fighting the stigma long associated with mental health and physical challenges."

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Vainieri Huttle Bill to Allow Solicitation of Snow Removal Services Ahead of Snow Storm Clears Assembly Panel

Bill in response to Bound Brook incident where two young men passing out flyers offering snow shoveling services were stopped by police for breaking local solicitation law

(TRENTON) - Legislation sponsored by Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle that would allow individuals to solicit their snow shoveling services ahead of a snowstorm without fear of breaking local laws was released Thursday by the Assembly State and Local Government Committee.

The bill (A-4213) would supersede any municipality ordinance that allows the municipality to regulate the solicitation of snow shoveling services within 24 hours of a predicted snowstorm. 

"Young people offering to shovel snow, especially for senior citizens and individuals with disabilities, is a great service to the community," said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). "Many people have come to rely on their neighbors to shovel their walkway or driveway after a bad snow storm. Entrepreneurial individuals offering to shovel snow should not have to worry about breaking the law simply by promoting their services before the storm hits."

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Assembly Panel Advances Vainieri Huttle, Gusciora & Jasey Bill to Revise Requirements for Changing a Birth Certificate

Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Reed Gusciora and Mila Jasey to make it easier for an individual undergoing gender reassignment to obtain an amended birth certificate was advanced by an Assembly panel on Thursday.

 

"This bill acknowledges that individuals do not necessarily undergo sex reassignment surgery when transitioning genders so it revises the process for obtaining an amended birth certificate to reflect the change in current practices," said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). "Essentially we're updating a standard state procedure to be more inclusive and reflective of our changing society." 

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Vainieri Huttle Bill to Increase Safe Havens for Unwanted Infants Clears Assembly Panel

(TRENTON) - Legislation sponsored by Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen) that would increase the number of locations in the state where unwanted infants may be dropped off safely and anonymously was released Thursday by the Assembly Women and Children Committee.

"This is about giving parents who cannot care for their babies more options so children are not abandoned in dangerous locations," said Vainieri Huttle. "This bill would add to the current list locations that are staffed around the clock with individuals trained to react to emergency situations and who can provide first aid if necessary."

The bill (A-4149) expands the list of sites where newborn infants may be left safely and anonymously by a parent, or another person acting on the parent's behalf, in accordance with the provisions of the "New Jersey Safe Haven Infant Protection Act." 

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Vainieri Huttle, Singleton & Benson Bill to Create Office to Advise on Special Education Matters Clears Panel

Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Troy Singleton and Daniel Benson to help protect the rights of students with disabilities was advanced by an Assembly panel on Thursday. 

The bill (A-1103) would establish the Office of the Special Education Ombudsman in the Department of Education. The office would serve as a resource to provide confidential information and support to parents, students and educators regarding special education rights and services.

"Parents of students with disabilities often don't know where to turn when they have a question or concern about their child's education, and so they find it more difficult to advocate on their behalf," said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). "Creating an office dedicated to informing and advising parents, students and school staff on special education issues will help ensure that New Jersey can execute its mission of providing all students with a quality education." 

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Assembly Panel Advances Vainieri Huttle & Mukherji Bill to Overhaul Delivery of Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services in Prison

Bill Would Address Underlying Problems, Boost Long-Term Outcomes, Break Cycle of Recidivism & Save Taxpayer Money

An Assembly panel recently approved legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Valerie Vainieri Huttle and Raj Mukherji to overhaul the delivery of substance abuse and mental health treatment throughout the state's prison system in order to improve long-term outcomes for the incarcerated and save taxpayer dollars.

The measure (A-3721), which would establish a three-year pilot program to broaden Medicaid coverage in New Jersey to qualified individuals by reaching out to them through various stages of the state's criminal justice system, is part of a comprehensive 20-bill package that was introduced in September to address the growing opiate and heroin addiction crisis.

"Addiction and mental health issues often go hand-in-hand with incarceration," said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). "You can't treat these underlying health issues with incarceration alone. This legislation takes a pragmatic and cost-effective approach to ensuring more inmates get the treatment they need while sharing the cost with the federal government so New Jersey residents don't have to bear the entire brunt of it."

The sponsors noted that the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse's second report, "Behind Bars II, Substance Abuse and America's Prison Population," shows that of 2.3 million U.S. inmates, 1.5 million suffer from substance abuse addiction and another 458,000 inmates either had histories of substance abuse, were under the influence of alcohol or other drugs at the time of committing their crimes, committed their offenses to get money to buy drugs or were incarcerated for an alcohol or drug violation. Combined, the two groups make up 85 percent of the U.S. prison population.

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Conaway, Vainieri Huttle & Sumter Bill to Help Patients with Off-Label Prescription Drug Costs Advances

(TRENTON) - Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Herb Conaway Jr., Valerie Vainieri Huttle and Shavonda Sumter that would require certain health insurance carriers to cover off-label uses of prescription drugs was recently approved by the Assembly Appropriations Committee. 

The bill (A-1932) requires the State Health Benefits Program, the School Employees' Health Benefits Program and health benefits plans offered in the individual and small employer markets that cover Food and Drug Administration-approved drugs to provide coverage for off-label uses, or medically-appropriate uses that deviate from the original intent designated by the FDA.

"This bill will help extend the medical benefits of prescription drugs to individuals - in particular those suffering from a terminal or chronically debilitating illness - who may not otherwise be able to access these medications because their insurance won't cover it," said Conaway (D-Burlington). 

"Medications can be quite expensive, especially when they must be taken routinely to treat a debilitating disease," said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). "If these drugs are proven to be effective in the treatment of a particular illness and deemed safe by a medical professional, then I don't see why they should not be covered by insurance."

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Lagana, Mazzeo, Eustace, Andrzejczak & Vainieri Huttle Bill to Improve Delivery of Long-Term & Community-Based Services for the Elderly Continues Advancing

Three-Bill Package Based on State Audit is also Designed to Maximize Federal Funding to Save New Jersey Taxpayers Money

A three-bill package sponsored by Assembly Democrats Joseph Lagana, Vince Mazzeo, Tim Eustace, Bob Andrzejczak and Valerie Vainieri Huttle to improve the delivery of state programs and services for the elderly in order to maximize their independence and protect taxpayer dollars continued advancing this week, gaining approval from a Senate panel on Monday.

The bills were based on recommendations from a recent State Auditor report on selected community-based senior programs within the state Department of Human Services' Division of Aging Services. The programs, which are funded by the state and federal government and the Casino Revenue Fund, are designed to provide services to elderly residents to avoid unnecessary institutional placement. 

"Essentially these bills provide a number of fixes that will increase the efficiency of existing programs designed to aid some of our most frail and vulnerable residents," said Lagana (D-Bergen/Passaic). "At the same time, these bills also call for better notification procedures in order to make sure seniors are aware that they may be eligible for critical safety net programs."

"Anyone with an aging parent or loved one knows how important it is to them to maximize their independence," said Mazzeo (D-Atlantic). "We have a number of existing state programs designed to do just that but they're not necessarily being utilized by everyone who is eligible. These bills will help correct that and ensure that the state is taking advantage of every federal dollar available in order to save our taxpayers money."

"This audit was helpful in exposing several shortcomings that have either prevented seniors from accessing crucial programs or left important federal funding on the table," said Eustace. "These changes are designed to ensure a more efficient delivery of home and community-based long-term care services while also ensuring that elderly residents and their families do not have to deal with the aggravation of trying to get authorized claims processed."

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Jasey, Benson, Vainieri Huttle & McKeon Bill to Study Benefits of Later Start Time for Schools Gets Final Legislative OK

(TRENTON) - Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Mila Jasey, Dan Benson, Valerie Vainieri Huttle and John McKeon to study the merits of pushing back the start time for middle schools and high schools in New Jersey was approved 73-0 Thursday by the Assembly, giving it final legislative approval.

The study would look into what it would take to make the change, including the recommendation by the American Academy of Pediatrics that middle and high schools delay the start of class to 8:30 a.m. or later to better align school schedules to the biological sleep rhythms of adolescents, whose sleep-wake cycles begin to shift up to two hours later at the start of puberty.

“The majority of adolescents in this country are not getting enough sleep. This can have serious consequences on their health and their grades,” said Jasey (D-Essex/Morris). “Resetting the school day would not be easy or simple, but given what we now know about the effects of sleep deprivation on the adolescent brain, to not even consider it as a possibility does our students a disservice. This bill is a good first step in determining whether changing the school start time makes sense for our students.”

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Garcia, Mukherji, Vainieri Huttle, Mainor, Eustace & Mosquera Bill to Help Empower Teens to Seek Mental Health Treatment Heads to Gov's Desk

(TRENTON) - Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Carmelo G. Garcia, Raj Mukherji, Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Charles Mainor, Tim Eustace and Gabriela Mosquera to help empower minors to seek treatment for mental illness and emotional disorders received final legislative approval Thursday and now heads to the governor's desk.

"This bill takes into account the fears and stigmas associated with mental illness, particularly for young people," said Garcia (D-Hudson). "Hopefully by creating a more private means for them to seek treatment we can drastically improve and ultimately save lives. I'm grateful to the young men and women of the Hudson County Boys and Girls Club who prompted me to sponsor this legislation."

The bill (A-3435) is designated as the "Boys & Girls Clubs Keystone Law" in honor of the members of the Keystone Club of the Hudson County Boys & Girls Clubs who were concerned about suicide and self harm among teenagers.

"It's inspiring to see the young men and women of the Hudson County Boys & Girls Club concerned with the welfare of their peers," said Mukherji (D-Hudson). "They understand, firsthand, what it's like dealing with these hurdles as teens. This legislation will allow teens in need to seek mental health treatment and, hopefully, aid in preventing suicides."

Specifically, the bill would amend current law to permit a minor to give consent for behavioral health care for the treatment of mental illness or emotional disorders. 

"Research has shown that one of the greatest barriers to mental health treatment for teens is stigma," said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). "Millions of young people forego treatment every year because of this. Hopefully this bill will help them overcome that and seek the much-needed help they deserve."

The bill provides that the minor's consent to treatment under the supervision of a physician, an individual licensed to provide professional counseling, including, but not limited to, a psychiatrist, licensed practicing psychologist, certified social worker, licensed clinical social worker, licensed social worker, licensed marriage and family therapist, certified psychoanalyst, licensed psychologist or licensed clinical social worker, or in a health care facility would be valid and binding as if the minor were an adult.

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