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Governor Signs Legislation Creating Developmental Center Task Force

Senator Jeff Van Drew, D-Cape May, Atlantic and Cumberland, hears testimony during the Senate Environment Committee.

Law Ensures Vineland Is Part of Fair and Open Process For Determining Facility Closures

TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senator Jeff Van Drew to create a task force to conduct a comprehensive review of the state’s seven developmental centers and to develop recommendations for the future of developmental centers in this state, to include facility closures, is now law.

Senator Van Drew sponsored the bill (S-2928) after a provision was included in the current FY2012 State Budget to close the Vineland Developmental Center. While the provision was ultimately removed from the spending plan, this law provides for a thorough review of all of the state’s centers that takes into account the needs of facility residents and the potential economic impact of a closure on the community in which a facility is located.

“I have always believed that any plan to close a developmental center must be based on a thorough assessment of all seven of the state’s facilities,” said Senator Van Drew (D-Cape May/Cumberland/Atlantic). “While the signing of this legislation does not guarantee that Vineland or any particular developmental center will remain open, it does ensure a fair and open process to determine the best way to consolidate facilities in the state.”

The law creates a five-member “Task Force on the Closure of State Developmental Centers.” The panel will be made up of three members appointed by the governor and one each appointed by the governor upon the recommendation of the Senate President and Assembly Speaker, respectively.

In making recommendations for facility closures, the task force will consider:

• the number of individuals with developmental disabilities residing in a developmental center who want or do not oppose, or if applicable, whose guardians want or do not oppose, community placement and whose interdisciplinary teams have recommended such a placement;

• the present capacity of the community to provide or develop specialized services and supports to individuals with developmental disabilities;

• the operational needs of the Department of Human Services in meeting the range of needs and preferences of all affected individuals served by the Division of Developmental Disabilities;

• the economic impact on the community in which the developmental center is located if that center were to close; and

• projected repair and maintenance costs of the center.

“The fact is, without this legislation, Vineland would be in the process of closing as we speak. This law provides for a comprehensive review of all seven of the state’s developmental centers that takes into account the needs of facility residents, the availability of community supports, and the economic impact of a closure on the region,” said Senator Van Drew. “Put simply, this process will ensure the residents of the Vineland Developmental Center, the Woodbine Developmental Center, and all facilities statewide, are given the respect of an honest process to decide the fate of the facilities that they call home.

“I want to thank the governor for keeping his promise to have a fair and open process. He has shown a true commitment to ensuring residents who have disabilities are treated with the dignity and respect they deserve, and the people of South Jersey are so grateful for his dedication. We have had ongoing positive discussions on this issue. I look forward to continuing our dialogue to ensure that all of the individuals appointed to the task force will be objective and engage in this process with a goal of crafting a responsible and humane plan for the future of these facilities in our state.”

The task force members must be appointed within 30 days of the bill signing. The panel will be required to meet within 30 days of the majority of the members being appointed, and to complete its work no sooner than 90 days following organization and no later than 180 days.