Battle Over ‘Return Home New Jersey’ Program Reaches State Legislators

CBS Local News

TRENTON, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — There is new hope for those fighting against the controversial programcalled “Return Home New Jersey.”

The program calls for severely disabled residents living in facilities out of state to move into Garden State group homes. On Thursday, family members made emotional pleas to state legislators, CBS2’s Jessica Schneider reported.

Maureen Clark is tired of fighting the state. Her 47-year-old daughter, Maura, lives at the Woods facility in Langhorne, Pennsylvania, just over the New Jersey border.

She gets one-on-one care for the cerebral palsy that prevents her from speaking, walking or even feeding herself.

“We need a resolution quickly. Please don’t make her come back here,” Maureen Clark said.

State officials moved her to the Pennsylvania care facility three decades ago, because New Jersey lacked appropriate care.

But now, the state has plans to move her and hundreds like her back, and put them into group homes.

Rita O’Grady’s 23-year-old son, Tyler, is autistic. He was moved into a group home setting two years ago. Since then he’s been in jail a total of 19 days because of his violent outbursts.

“It hasn’t worked, not at all,” O’Grady said. “It’s been nothing but a nightmare. Their only solutionis to hand him over to another provider.”

These parents are persistent. After Gov. Chris Christie vetoed a bill that would’ve let many disabled adults stay where they are, parents lobbied lawmakers to propose another bill that is close to moving to the floor of the Assembly and Senate.

The bill will allow family members to petition in writing to keep the patients where they are – if thoseadults have lived out of state for more than 20 years, or they are particularly, medically or behaviorally fragile.

It won’t get Tyler Loftus back to Woods, but other parents are hopeful it will help their children already there.

“She’ll die if she doesn’t get that care,” Art Clark said.

It’s a dire circumstance that parents want lawmakers to prevent.

The Assembly bill passed through a committee panel on Thursday. A Senate committee will hear testimony on its version of the bill later this month.