NELLIE POU’S BILL REQUIRING FOLLOW-UP STUDIES OF STATE INSTITUTIONS AND VETERANS’ HOMES FORMER RESIDENTS CLEARS COMMITTEE

Senator Nellie Pou, D-Passaic and Bergen, listens to testimony during a Senate Budget Committee hearing on the FY 2012 State Budget.

TRENTON — The Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee released Monday a bill sponsored by Senator Nellie Pou (D-Passaic, Bergen) that would provide for a series of follow-up studies to assess the well-being of former residents of State developmental centers, State psychiatric hospitals, and State veterans’ memorial homes who have made a transition into the community after the effective date of the bill.

“We have to make sure that individuals who have been transferred out of State institutions and veterans’ homes are still receiving the care they need,” said Senator Pou. “We can’t just close Developmental Centers and leave these people on their own at a very precarious moment of their lives.”

The legislation (S-671) would require the Commissioner of Human Services to conduct, or contract with another entity to conduct, a series of follow-up studies on all former residents of North Jersey and Woodbridge Developmental Centers who have made a transition into the community after August 1, 2012, of all former residents who have made a transition as a result of the implementation of the DHS’ “Path to Progress” Olmstead Plan, and of all former residents of State psychiatric hospitals and veterans memorial homes who have made a transition after the effective date of the bill. Those studies would be conducted annually after the closure of centers, homes or hospitals.

“To get a good idea of how well former residents are doing, we need to collect a large amount of data,” added Senator Pou. “We need to know about former residents’ health, access to healthcare, and economic and social integration into the community. It is the only way we can make sure we don’t fail on any one of them.”

Those studies would be compared with similar studies conducted with current residents of State institutions and veterans homes. That way, the New Jersey Department of Human Services would be able to continually improve its care of people who are or who have been suffering from mental disability.

The bill was approved unanimously by the Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee. It now heads to the Budget and Appropriations Committee.