Assembly votes to kill plan to move disabled people back to N.J.

Susan K. Livio, NJ Advance Media for

TRENTON — Although the unpopular policy of transferring disabled people living in out-of-state facilities back to New Jersey ended in July, the state Assembly voted to formally kill it on Thursday.

The "Return Home New Jersey" policy was developed to save money and move people with developmental disabled clients closer to their families, although how much it saved was never clear.

But in terms of anxiety, the policy's cost was high for families whose loved ones would have been displaced — many of them decades after living in facilities that understood their medical and emotional needs. 

The families successfully enlisted lawmakers to introduce legislation to stop the policy, which Gov. Chris Christie vetoed. In June, the Senate was one vote shy of overriding the veto. In July, a bipartisan group of senators met privately with Christie to hammer out an agreement to stop all future transfers in most cases.

Christie still has to sign the legislation into law. 

Before the policy was halted this summer, the state Department of Human Services had relocated about 170 people, beginning in 2009. Another 370 other people remain outside the state.  

Prior to the vote, Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen), one of the prime sponsors, gave a "shout out to the families who fought so hard to end this misguided program."

Parents and other relatives who urged the bill's passage cheered from the Assembly gallery and gave a standing ovation after the 79-0 vote.

"Everyday life is a difficult challenge for these adults, and for many, disrupting their routines and lifestyle represents too much of a risk," said Assemblywoman Mary Pat Angelini (R-Monmouth), also a sponsor, said in a statement. "Sometimes the best thing is allowing them to remain where they are comfortable, and this bill accomplishes that goal."