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Senator Bob Gordon hears testimony during the Senate Environment Committee.

TRENTON — The Department of Human Services would temporarily stop transferring individuals with developmental disabilities from out-of-state placements to new residential placements in New Jersey until the state develops a comprehensive plan to deal with the transfers and posts it on its web site under a bill sponsored by Senators Bob Gordon and Peter Barnes that passed the Senate today.

“I have heard from many concerned families who say their loved ones are being transferred from out-of-state facilities to ones in New Jersey that are ill-suited to meet their needs. New Jersey needs a more thorough and effective plan that addresses the individual needs of clients when they are transferring them back here,” said Gordon (D-Bergen, Passaic). “I also have broader concerns about the administration’s handling of the intra-state transfers resulting from the closing of developmental centers that must be addressed. This is a complex and emotional issue that deserves our immediate attention.”

This bill, S-2249, would require the Department of Human Services (DHS) to develop a plan that ensures the individual receives the same level of care they were getting from the out-of-state facility and that living conditions are medically and behaviorally appropriate. The bill would also prohibit the transferring of an individual when the transfer is opposed by a parent or guardian, the individual has lived out-of-state for more than 10 years or when a medical evaluation determines the new placement would harmful.

“When individuals are transferred back into this state, we must ensure they get comparable care or that the transfer itself doesn’t pose health risks. At the very least, the state needs to have a real plan that protects individuals,” said Barnes (D-Middlesex).

Over the years, a significant number of New Jersey residents with developmental disabilities have left New Jersey in order to receive the services and supports they needed in a facility out-of-state.  The administration has recently embarked on an initiative called “Return HomeNew Jersey”, which seeks to transfer individuals receiving services at out-of-state residential facilities to community-based residential placements in New Jersey.  The administration is pursuing this initiative in order to increase New Jersey’s ability to receive federal matching funds.

Some families and guardians have expressed trepidation over the Return Home policy, because the agency has attempted to move clients out of specialized out-of-State placements that are uniquely suited to meet an individual’s needs into facilities in New Jersey that are not as well equipped to meet those needs.  In other cases, the administration has sought to shift individuals out of nearby out-of-State facilities, such as Woods in Langhorne, PA, that they have resided in for decades.

“The families and guardians believe that shifting the individuals out of familiar locations or ones that are better equipped to handle their needs could have a detrimental effect on their physical, psychological, and social well being,” said Gordon.

The bill passed 37-1 and now heads to the Assembly.

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