Vainieri Huttle Bill to Ensure Safe Transition to Community Housing for Individuals with Development Disabilities Advances

Legislation sponsored by Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle to overhaul the procedures that are used to transition an individual with a developmental disability from a state developmental center to a community placement gained approval from an Assembly panel on Monday.

"Moving can be stressful for anyone, but for someone with developmental disabilities the transition can be detrimental at times," said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). "The State Auditor has identified a number of concerns related to the high volume of transitions due to the closure of several developmental centers. Based on these recommendations, we've developed a comprehensive plan to ensure a safer transition for some of our most vulnerable."

The Division of Developmental Disabilities (DDD) in the Department of Human Services (DHS), in accordance with its Olmstead Placement procedures, has been transitioning individuals from the North Jersey and Woodbridge Developmental centers, which closed on July 1, 2014 and January 9, 2015, respectively, to community placements.

The bill (A-4075) is based on recommendations included in a 2016 report issued by the Office of the State Auditor in the Office of Legislative Services, which noted some concerns with regard to: implementation of an individual's service plan, which sets forth the services and supports that an individual would receive in the community placement; the timing of visits by case managers to individuals who have transitioned to a community placement and the timing of preplacement meetings, which take place before a transition occurs to review the services and supports to be provided to the individual; and the checklist which is used to identify the services and supports the individual needs in the community.

"A clearer delineation of protocol and standards for follow-up oversight will lend itself to a smoother transition process and a better long-term living situation for individuals who may find themselves essentially on their own for the first time," added Vainieri Huttle. "It is our legal imperative, and more importantly our moral imperative, that we ensure the safety of these individuals."

The bill would establish use or a checklist required to be used by case managers to review the readiness of the service plan of an individual, which would indicate the status of arrangements for each service and support to be provided to the individual, including, but not limited to medical equipment, health care services, day programs, and living arrangements and the training of staff to implement the service plan upon the individual's transition to the community placement. The checklist is to be maintained in the records of the individual and safeguarded from destruction, and reviewed weekly by a case manager until the individual's transition to the community placement.

DDD would also be required to conduct a preplacement meeting no more than 60 days prior to the scheduled move date of the individual to a community placement. If the date is rescheduled and the meeting would not occur within 60 days, the transition case manager is required to conduct another review of the service plan to ensure that the plan remains appropriate for the individual to reside in the community. 

The bill also requires that, no more than seven days prior to the move date, the transition case manager is to inform DDD that the arrangements for the service and supports of the individual have been made. DDD is to review the arrangements and ensure and document that they are in place prior to the transition of the individual to a community placement.

Additionally, DDD would be required to ensure that three routine visits are made by a case manager within 30, 60, and 90 days following the date of the individual's transition to the placement, and additional visits may be scheduled within 180 days, one year, and two years following the transition date. One visit is to be conducted at a day program and the location of each visit is to be documented in the records of the individual that are maintained at the community placement. If a visit is postponed, the case manager must document the reason for postponement and schedule another visit as soon as possible. 

At the time of a visit, the case manager is to review implementation of the plan, and note any concerns the case manager identifies about the adequacy of the provision of services and support to the individual in the community placement. If a concern is identified, a follow-up visit is to be conducted within two weeks. If a concern has not been satisfactorily addressed or sufficient progress has not been made, the case manager is required to note this in the individual's record and notify the case manager's supervisor, who would advise DDD. 

Additionally, if a new concern is identified at a follow-up visit, the above procedures would be followed. If a concern affects the safety of the individual, the case manager is required to immediately advise the supervisor and DDD, which is to take such action as necessary to remedy the safety concern, as well as notify the Commissioner of Human Services or the commissioner's designee.

The bill provides that DDD is to take such action they deem necessary to ensure than an individual with a developmental disability who is residing in a community placement is safe and receiving services and supports in accordance with the individual's service plan. These actions would include, but not be limited to: tracking, reviewing, and prioritizing a concern; increasing monitoring of a community placement; requiring a community placement to submit a plan of correction; and taking action against a license, such as suspending admissions, issuing a provisional license, reducing licensed capacity or the non-renewal, suspension, or revocation of a license.

The bill was approved by the Assembly Human Services committee chaired by Vainieri Huttle. It would take effect immediately upon enactment.