(TRENTON) - Legislation sponsored by Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen) that would increase the number of locations in the state where unwanted infants may be dropped off safely and anonymously was released Thursday by the Assembly Women and Children Committee.
"This is about giving parents who cannot care for their babies more options so children are not abandoned in dangerous locations," said Vainieri Huttle. "This bill would add to the current list locations that are staffed around the clock with individuals trained to react to emergency situations and who can provide first aid if necessary."
The bill (A-4149) expands the list of sites where newborn infants may be left safely and anonymously by a parent, or another person acting on the parent's behalf, in accordance with the provisions of the "New Jersey Safe Haven Infant Protection Act."
Assembly Panel Advances Vainieri Huttle & Mukherji Bill to Overhaul Delivery of Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services in Prison
Bill Would Address Underlying Problems, Boost Long-Term Outcomes, Break Cycle of Recidivism & Save Taxpayer Money
An Assembly panel recently approved legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Valerie Vainieri Huttle and Raj Mukherji to overhaul the delivery of substance abuse and mental health treatment throughout the state's prison system in order to improve long-term outcomes for the incarcerated and save taxpayer dollars.
The measure (A-3721), which would establish a three-year pilot program to broaden Medicaid coverage in New Jersey to qualified individuals by reaching out to them through various stages of the state's criminal justice system, is part of a comprehensive 20-bill package that was introduced in September to address the growing opiate and heroin addiction crisis.
"Addiction and mental health issues often go hand-in-hand with incarceration," said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). "You can't treat these underlying health issues with incarceration alone. This legislation takes a pragmatic and cost-effective approach to ensuring more inmates get the treatment they need while sharing the cost with the federal government so New Jersey residents don't have to bear the entire brunt of it."
The sponsors noted that the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse's second report, "Behind Bars II, Substance Abuse and America's Prison Population," shows that of 2.3 million U.S. inmates, 1.5 million suffer from substance abuse addiction and another 458,000 inmates either had histories of substance abuse, were under the influence of alcohol or other drugs at the time of committing their crimes, committed their offenses to get money to buy drugs or were incarcerated for an alcohol or drug violation. Combined, the two groups make up 85 percent of the U.S. prison population.
Conaway, Vainieri Huttle & Sumter Bill to Help Patients with Off-Label Prescription Drug Costs Advances
(TRENTON) - Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Herb Conaway Jr., Valerie Vainieri Huttle and Shavonda Sumter that would require certain health insurance carriers to cover off-label uses of prescription drugs was recently approved by the Assembly Appropriations Committee.
The bill (A-1932) requires the State Health Benefits Program, the School Employees' Health Benefits Program and health benefits plans offered in the individual and small employer markets that cover Food and Drug Administration-approved drugs to provide coverage for off-label uses, or medically-appropriate uses that deviate from the original intent designated by the FDA.
"This bill will help extend the medical benefits of prescription drugs to individuals - in particular those suffering from a terminal or chronically debilitating illness - who may not otherwise be able to access these medications because their insurance won't cover it," said Conaway (D-Burlington).
"Medications can be quite expensive, especially when they must be taken routinely to treat a debilitating disease," said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). "If these drugs are proven to be effective in the treatment of a particular illness and deemed safe by a medical professional, then I don't see why they should not be covered by insurance."
Lagana, Mazzeo, Eustace, Andrzejczak & Vainieri Huttle Bill to Improve Delivery of Long-Term & Community-Based Services for the Elderly Continues Advancing
Three-Bill Package Based on State Audit is also Designed to Maximize Federal Funding to Save New Jersey Taxpayers Money
A three-bill package sponsored by Assembly Democrats Joseph Lagana, Vince Mazzeo, Tim Eustace, Bob Andrzejczak and Valerie Vainieri Huttle to improve the delivery of state programs and services for the elderly in order to maximize their independence and protect taxpayer dollars continued advancing this week, gaining approval from a Senate panel on Monday.
The bills were based on recommendations from a recent State Auditor report on selected community-based senior programs within the state Department of Human Services' Division of Aging Services. The programs, which are funded by the state and federal government and the Casino Revenue Fund, are designed to provide services to elderly residents to avoid unnecessary institutional placement.
"Essentially these bills provide a number of fixes that will increase the efficiency of existing programs designed to aid some of our most frail and vulnerable residents," said Lagana (D-Bergen/Passaic). "At the same time, these bills also call for better notification procedures in order to make sure seniors are aware that they may be eligible for critical safety net programs."
"Anyone with an aging parent or loved one knows how important it is to them to maximize their independence," said Mazzeo (D-Atlantic). "We have a number of existing state programs designed to do just that but they're not necessarily being utilized by everyone who is eligible. These bills will help correct that and ensure that the state is taking advantage of every federal dollar available in order to save our taxpayers money."
"This audit was helpful in exposing several shortcomings that have either prevented seniors from accessing crucial programs or left important federal funding on the table," said Eustace. "These changes are designed to ensure a more efficient delivery of home and community-based long-term care services while also ensuring that elderly residents and their families do not have to deal with the aggravation of trying to get authorized claims processed."
Jasey, Benson, Vainieri Huttle & McKeon Bill to Study Benefits of Later Start Time for Schools Gets Final Legislative OK
(TRENTON) - Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Mila Jasey, Dan Benson, Valerie Vainieri Huttle and John McKeon to study the merits of pushing back the start time for middle schools and high schools in New Jersey was approved 73-0 Thursday by the Assembly, giving it final legislative approval.
The study would look into what it would take to make the change, including the recommendation by the American Academy of Pediatrics that middle and high schools delay the start of class to 8:30 a.m. or later to better align school schedules to the biological sleep rhythms of adolescents, whose sleep-wake cycles begin to shift up to two hours later at the start of puberty.
“The majority of adolescents in this country are not getting enough sleep. This can have serious consequences on their health and their grades,” said Jasey (D-Essex/Morris). “Resetting the school day would not be easy or simple, but given what we now know about the effects of sleep deprivation on the adolescent brain, to not even consider it as a possibility does our students a disservice. This bill is a good first step in determining whether changing the school start time makes sense for our students.”Read more
Garcia, Mukherji, Vainieri Huttle, Mainor, Eustace & Mosquera Bill to Help Empower Teens to Seek Mental Health Treatment Heads to Gov's Desk
(TRENTON) - Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Carmelo G. Garcia, Raj Mukherji, Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Charles Mainor, Tim Eustace and Gabriela Mosquera to help empower minors to seek treatment for mental illness and emotional disorders received final legislative approval Thursday and now heads to the governor's desk.
"This bill takes into account the fears and stigmas associated with mental illness, particularly for young people," said Garcia (D-Hudson). "Hopefully by creating a more private means for them to seek treatment we can drastically improve and ultimately save lives. I'm grateful to the young men and women of the Hudson County Boys and Girls Club who prompted me to sponsor this legislation."
The bill (A-3435) is designated as the "Boys & Girls Clubs Keystone Law" in honor of the members of the Keystone Club of the Hudson County Boys & Girls Clubs who were concerned about suicide and self harm among teenagers.
"It's inspiring to see the young men and women of the Hudson County Boys & Girls Club concerned with the welfare of their peers," said Mukherji (D-Hudson). "They understand, firsthand, what it's like dealing with these hurdles as teens. This legislation will allow teens in need to seek mental health treatment and, hopefully, aid in preventing suicides."
Specifically, the bill would amend current law to permit a minor to give consent for behavioral health care for the treatment of mental illness or emotional disorders.
"Research has shown that one of the greatest barriers to mental health treatment for teens is stigma," said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). "Millions of young people forego treatment every year because of this. Hopefully this bill will help them overcome that and seek the much-needed help they deserve."
The bill provides that the minor's consent to treatment under the supervision of a physician, an individual licensed to provide professional counseling, including, but not limited to, a psychiatrist, licensed practicing psychologist, certified social worker, licensed clinical social worker, licensed social worker, licensed marriage and family therapist, certified psychoanalyst, licensed psychologist or licensed clinical social worker, or in a health care facility would be valid and binding as if the minor were an adult.
Vainieri Huttle & Jasey Bill Allowing Sign Language to Fulfill High School World Language Requirement Gains Final Legislative OK
Legislation sponsored by Assemblywomen Valerie Vainieri Huttle and Mila Jasey that would allow American Sign Language (ASL) to be used by New Jersey high school students to meet world language graduation requirements received final legislative approval 74-0 from the full Assembly on Thursday.
American Sign Language is a complete, complex language that employs signs made with the hands and other movements, including facial expressions and postures of the body.
"In the United States, American Sign Language is the primary language of an estimated 100,000 to 500,000 Americans and is said to be the fourth most commonly used language in the country," said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). "This can help hearing impaired students meet their graduation requirements, and remove some of the stigma often associated with hearing loss by encouraging all students to learn ASL."
Benson, Vainieri Huttle, Jasey, Tucker & Wimberly Bill to Train School Bus Drivers/Aides who Transport Children with Special Needs Continues Advancing
(TRENTON) - Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Daniel Benson, Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Mila Jasey, Cleopatra Tucker and Benjie Wimberly to prevent accidental mistreatment of students with special needs by creating a training program for school bus drivers and aides continues to advance in the legislature. The Senate Education Committee approved the measure on Thursday and now awaits consideration from the full Senate.
"Children with special needs require specialized attention and care. Bus drivers and aides should be aware of behaviors associated with certain disabilities, and know how to effectively deal with them so to avoid any confusion and accidental mistreatment of these students," said Benson (D-Mercer/Middlesex). "It makes their job easier and ensures that these students are being treated with the respect they deserve."
The bill (A-1029) would require the Commissioner of Education to develop a training program for school bus drivers and school bus aides on interacting with students with special needs. The training program would include appropriate behavior management, effective communication, the use and operation of adaptive equipment, and understanding behavior that may be related to specific disabilities.
"Knowing how to operate a school bus and knowing traffic laws is not enough," said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). "These bus drivers and aides are responsible for these children and not just for getting them to school safely, but for providing for their well-being while they are on the bus. Teaching them about the challenges faced by children with special needs will help ensure the safety of these students."
Once the training program is made available, boards of education and school bus contractors that provide student transportation services under contract with boards of education would be required to administer the training program to all school bus drivers and school bus aides that they employ.
Mazzeo, Vainiei Huttle, DeAngelo & Lampitt Bill Requiring State Agency to Give Proper Notice when Services to Developmentally Disabled are Terminated Advances
TRENTON) - Legislation Assembly Democrats Vince Mazzeo, Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Wayne DeAngelo and Pamela Lampitt sponsored requiring the state to properly notify individuals with developmental disabilities when the services they are receiving are terminated or discontinued was advanced Thursday by an Assembly panel.
Mazzeo said he was moved to sponsor the bill after meeting with the Atlantic City Arc and learning that some of their clients had their services terminated without proper notice.
"One of the services provided by the Arc is residential living which allows residents with developmental disabilities to receive the support needed to live independently. Failing to provide proper notice that their services or residential placement is being terminated can put these residents through serious hardship," said Mazzeo (D-Atlantic). "This bill can help avoid putting these residents through such a predicament by ensuring they, and providers like Arc, are notified well in advance of any service interruption."
The bill (A-4420) would require the Division of Developmental Disabilities (DDD) in the Department of Human Services to notify an individual with developmental disabilities, or his or her guardian, of plans to terminate any services or residential placement received by the individual due to ineligibility for benefits under the Medicaid program or ineligibility for services or a placement from the DDD. The bill would also require the DDD to notify providers in these instances, as well as when funding for a service is discontinued. The notifications provided for in the bill would have to be made at least 90 days prior to services or a placement being terminated, or a service being discontinued.
Tucker, Vainieri Huttle & Quijano Bill Criminalizing ‘Upskirting’ Advanced by Assembly Judiciary Committee
Measure Cracking Down on Illegally Photographing Under Someone's Clothing also Strengthens New Jersey's Right to Privacy Statute
Legislation Assembly Democrats Cleopatra G. Tucker, Valerie Vainieri Huttle and Annette Quijano sponsored to criminalize the act of secretly photographing or recording under a person's clothing - commonly referred to as "upskirting" - was advanced by an Assembly panel on Thursday.
"With today's level of technology, most people with cell phones are essentially walking around with an Internet linked video camera in their pocket at all times," said Tucker (D-Essex). "This can lead certain people to assume it is acceptable to 'document' whatever they choose, even if it violates someone else's privacy. We are here today to say that should not, cannot and will not be the case in New Jersey."
Three pieces of legislation before the committee addressing upskirting were combined into a single substitute bill to address the issue. The combined legislation (A-3864/3938/2992) would establish the crime of upskirting.
Specifically, the bill would make it illegal for an individual, knowing that he or she is not licensed or privileged to do so, to photograph, film, videotape, record or otherwise reproduce in any manner an image of the undergarment-clad intimate parts of another person, without that person's specific consent and in any circumstance in which a reasonable person would not expect to have their undergarments observed. Violators would face up to 18 months in jail and fines of up to $10,000.
"Upskirting is not a prank or a game. It's a crime - a defiling and invasive crime," said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). "Today we're putting perpetrators on notice that they will face consequences for their actions."