A new initiative by Governor Christie just may cause the number of these people on the street to swell. Perhaps his intentions are purely out of concern for those families in need of caring for those with special needs, and not driven by the desire to save the state money. The question remains, is this the best solution to the challenge of caring for our disabled?
New Jersey residents with developmental disabilities are being told they will have an easier time receiving publicly funded services at home, thanks to additional funding announced by Gov. Chris Christie in his budget address on Tuesday.
The Governor is using the U.S. Supreme Court’s Olmstead decision as a reason for his proposed changes.
Christie’s announcement of the lawsuit settlement, as well as $83 million in state and federal funding to support community placement and services, was praised by proponents of group homes and for providing services in residents’ homes.
But the people who want the state to keep open two development centers were frustrated and disappointed. They argue that for some residents, living in state-operated institutions is more appropriate.
Both groups have argued vehemently about how the state should spend its limited federal Medicaid funds to care for residents with developmental disabilities.
In his budget address, Christie harshly criticized the state’s use of residential institutions like the developmental centers.
“It is shameful, it is ineffective and -- in this administration -- it is ending,” Christie said.
As a result of the settlement, the state will place at least 600 current developmental center residents in a community setting such as group homes. Residents will now be considered eligible for community placement when treatment professionals determine that it’s appropriate and the residents or their legal guardians don’t oppose the decision.
Residents or guardians still have the ability to express a preference for developmental centers over community placement. In cases where the residents and their legal guardians disagree about the resident’s placement, Disability Rights New Jersey has been given the power under the settlement to investigate and resolve the situations, according to state officials.
Christie said he was proud to announce the settlement, adding that in response to it, the state has increased funds for community-based services, reduced the waiting list for services provided in residents’ homes, and expanded group homes.
“We’re allowing people with disabilities to live where they and their families want them to live: at home, in the community, among family and friends,” he said.
Supporters of the state developmental centers have disagreed that community placement is appropriate for residents with profound disabilities. They argue that privately operated group homes have a lower level of service, less-qualified workers, and fewer safeguards.
They also have protested the possibility of the state shuttering the only two developmental centers near the heavily populated northeastern corner of the state.
The state is in the process of closing Woodbridge Developmental Center and North Jersey Developmental Center in Totowa
Cindy Bartman, whose brother Clifford is a longtime resident of Hunterdon Developmental Center, said she is concerned about funding for these facilities.
“I’m almost appalled at [Christie’s] flagrant use of words such as shameful and ineffective,” Bartman said. “What I find shameful is that our governor is putting the very lives of the profoundly developmentally disabled at stake by failing to understand the very real needs of New Jersey’s developmental centers.”
She is hoping that Christie will support a recently introduced bill (A-3870) that would require developmental centers to be located in each region of the state.
State Division of Developmental Disabilities spokeswoman Pam Ronan said families would have an opportunity to learn about potential benefits of living in the community.
New Jersey Council on Developmental Disabilities officials said that some of the strongest advocates for community placement are adults with developmental disabilities.
The way to care for our disabled is not a simple single solution. Each special needs person has, just that, a special need. A person given funding for home care may find themselves on the street when an aged parent dies suddenly. I there are no institutions to help take care of them we will have a bigger problem than before.
The question remaining is, does Chris Christie want to do what is best for those in extreme need of simply find a way to save some money in the short term. His track record would lean toward the latter, but perhaps in this one area he can rise above the bottom line to do what is right.