Assembly Human Services Committee Chair Valerie Vainieri Huttle on Tuesday called on the state to halt the closure of anymore developmental centers until a comprehensive safety plan is developed in light of the tragic death of a 68-year old woman at the Woodbridge Developmental Center.
In doing so, Vainieri Huttle sent a letter to NJ Department of Human Services (DHS) Commissioner Jennifer Velez. The Assemblywoman intends to follow up the letter with legislation ordering a moratorium on any closures until DHS issues a comprehensive, publicly-available closure plan to ensure that the safety and well-being of residents at the Woodbridge and North Jersey Developmental Centers are not compromised by the closures.
Although Vainieri Huttle believes the closures are not the right course of action for the state, if transfers do take place, she wants to ensure that residents are protected from abuse and neglect.
"Tragic incidents have occurred at developmental centers, group homes, and other residences. Regardless of where it happens, we must make sure that we are doing all we can to prevent abuse and neglect of our most vulnerable.
"As part of the Governor's effort to close the Woodbridge and North Jersey Developmental Centers, the Department of Human Services is transitioning residents out of the centers and downsizing available residential facilities.
"There should certainly not be any more transfers before the investigation concludes and there should be a moratorium on the closures until DHS produces a transition plan available to the families and the public that addresses such concerns as sufficient staffing resources, ratio, and oversight.
"I am requesting that the department stop the closure process now, review safety procedures, and create a closure plan before it moves forward with any additional transfers. I hope the department begins this process immediately, though I will soon introduce legislation requiring a moratorium until a closure plan is in place," said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen).
A full copy of Vainieri Huttle's letter to DHS can be viewed here.