By Susan Livio NJ Advance Media
What just a week ago looked like an appealing alternative to the Christie administration's controversial Return Home NJ plan for hundreds of profoundly disabled people was derailed today — and is likely dead.
State Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester) today declined to let the Senate vote on a bill (S2600) that Sen. Christopher "Kip" Bateman (R-Somerset) said the administration told him would spare about 200 people with developmental disabilities from having to leave the out-of-state facilities they've called home for years and relocate to group homes in New Jersey. But when families and their attorneys examined the legislation, they concluded it contained too many loopholes to help anyone, and urged Bateman and fellow sponsors — Sens. Robert Gordon (D-Bergen) and Jeff Van Drew (D-Cape May) ‐ to reject it.
Sweeney said the idea of forcing some people to return to the state and letting others remain "is a horrible choice, but hopefully we can negotiate with the administration."Read more
By Melissa Hayes Bergen Record
Parents of adult children with developmental disabilities celebrated a small victory on Friday after a Bergen County assemblywoman agreed to hold off on controversial amendments to a bill that they fear would do more harm than good.
The state Senate is still scheduled to vote on the revised legislation on Monday, but that vote, too, could be delayed at the request of one of its sponsors.
At stake is the fate of hundreds of disabled people who have lived in facilities outside New Jersey for years and now face the prospect of being brought back to the state under Governor Christie’s Return Home New Jersey policy. Parents have launched a campaign to fight the policy, arguing that their children’s care would suffer and that the state already has a waiting list of 3,600 people who need emergency housing. The Christie administration has said that the state cannot afford to continue such an expensive program and that the residents would be relocated close to their guardians in suitable community settings.
As the emotional debate intensified, lawmakers from both parties sought to address those concerns through legislation. They came up with a bill that would allow about 365 of the 387 people affected to remain where they are, by specifying that anyone who has been in a placement for 20 years, or 25 percent of their lives, could not be moved. The bill also cited medical exemptions.Read more
By Susan K. Livio NJ Advance Media Group
Legislation intended to spare 200 people with developmental disabilities from being forced to leave out-of-state facilities they've called home for years lost the support Friday of one of its state Senate sponsors who now believes the bill may help no one, NJ Advance Media has learned.
State Sen. Jeff Van Drew (D-Cape May) said he has been deluged with calls and emails from angry and panicked families since Monday, when the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee approved a hastily-revised version of the bill that his co-prime sponsor Sen. Christopher "Kip" Bateman (R-Somerset) rewrote with the Christie administration.
Bateman told the committee the revised bill would allow 199 people to remain where they are because they had spent either half of their lives or at least 25 years at an out-of-state facility.
Those who did not meet this threshold would be subject to the "Return Home New Jersey Policy" and be transferred to a state-licensed group home or other supervised dwelling. The Christie administration said the policy would save the state money that could be used to support housing and services for other disabled people on a long waiting list.Read more
The recent departure of New Jersey Department of Human Services (DHS) Commissioner Jennifer Velez leaves our state at a crossroads and the futures of our most vulnerable residents at stake.
While Commissioner Velez and I have not always agreed on policy and department decisions, I greatly respect and admire her dedication to serving individuals with special needs and their families. She was a steady leader through eight transformative and tumultuous years in our state's human services history, and the person who next takes the helm of New Jersey's largest and most expensive department is no small matter. That person, and his or her vision, will impact millions of people.
When any longtime chief departs, there is an expected period of transition. In this case, there will be an acting commissioner until Gov. Chris Christie appoints, and the state Senate confirms, a new commissioner. But what happens in the meantime? The department serves 1.5 million residents, employs more than 15,000 people, and has an operating budget of about $11 billion. Frankly, DHS is too big to fail.
By Suzanne Russel My Central Jersey
The Senate Budget Committee this week passed a bill aimed at tracking the progress of former state developmental center residents who have been moved to group homes due to the recent closing of two state facilities.
The bill, which was passed by the full Assembly last year, would require the state Department of Human Services to conduct follow up studies for five years to assess the well being of former residents of the Woodbridge Developmental Center in the Avenel section of Woodbridge and the North Jersey Developmental Center in Totowa.Read more
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.Read more
Vainieri Huttle, Eustace, Diegnan & Giblin Bill to Study Transition of Former State Developmental Facility Residents Advances in Senate
Legislation Assembly Democrats Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Tim Eustace, Patrick Diegnan Jr. and Thomas Giblin sponsored to study the transition of former residents of two state developmental centers slated to close was advanced Monday by a Senate panel.
The bill (A-1098) would require the Department of Human Services to conduct follow-up studies to assess the well-being of former residents of North Jersey Developmental Center and Woodbridge Developmental Center. The studies would evaluate all individuals who made a transition from the centers into community housing after August 1, 2012 and have lived away from a developmental center for at least six months. Additional assessments would be conducted for each of the five years after the closure of both centers.
"North Jersey and Woodbridge Developmental Centers provided access to the special resources their residents needed while also giving their families the ability to visit and provide all-important emotional support," said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). "Ideally - for the benefit of the residents and their loved ones - we would have kept these facilities open. However, given the administration's decision to close them, 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."
Following the recommendation of the Task Force on the Closure of State Developmental Centers in an August 2012 report, North Jersey Developmental Center, located in Totowa, will close at the start of next month. Woodbridge Developmental Center is scheduled to close in 2017.
"It is our duty to ensure that every New Jersey resident with a developmental disability receives the care and support he or she needs to thrive physically, mentally and emotionally," said Eustace (D-Bergen/Passaic). "This legislation is about our commitment to stand up for the rights of some of New Jersey's most vulnerable men and women."