Assembly Human Services Committee Chair Valerie Vainieri Huttle on Friday vowed to lead the charge in the Assembly to ensure that all workers hired to care for individuals with developmental disabilities undergo a criminal background check after a State Auditor report this week detailed how some employees have been able to evade existing law and get hired, including one convicted murderer.
Vainieri Huttle will join forces with Senate President Steve Sweeney to introduce a companion bill in the Assembly and push for swift passage of the measure when the legislature reconvenes in November.
"This report confirms some of our worst fears and underscores the need to do more to protect our most vulnerable residents," said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). "We need to ensure that there are no ambiguities in the law. Anyone entrusted with the day-to-day care and well-being of individuals who often can't speak or fend for themselves should be vetted to the fullest."
Vainieri Huttle was the lead sponsor of the recently enacted "Stephen Komninos' Law," which strengthens protections for children and adults with development disabilities by boosting transparency and accountability to help thwart potential abuse and neglect by caregivers. The law was named to honor a young man who died at the age of 22 while under the care of a private state-licensed facility for individuals with developmental disabilities.
"For four years I worked with advocates and the family of Stephen Komninos who lived through the tragedy of losing a son in this environment. Families deserve greater peace of mind and these individuals deserve the utmost respect and quality care. I am committed to making sure we give that to them," added Vainieri Huttle.