Ruiz/Vitale Bill To Give Disabled Residents More Control Over Assistance Services Clears Senate

Senator M. Theresa Ruiz listens to testimony during the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee hearing.

TRENTON – A measure sponsored by Senators Teresa Ruiz and Joseph F. Vitale which would revise the “Personal Assistance Services Program” (PASP) to grant disabled New Jerseyans more control over their service plan received approval today from the full Senate by a vote of 39-0

“This legislation would allow disabled New Jerseyans to choose the service plan that best fits their particular needs,” said Senator Ruiz, D-Essex and Union. “Currently, the majority of the people enrolled in the PASP program have limited choices because county agencies have the final say in who provides the care and how much money is spent. Through this bill, more say would be given to the recipients of the program’s benefits, and allow them to take an active role in selecting who they trust to handle such an integral part of their lives.”

The Senators’ bill, S-1986, would amend the PASP program in the Division of Disability Services, under the Department of Human Services, to allow for personal assistance service customers to exercise control over the individuals they employ, enabling the consumer to manage and direct their own service plan. Under current guidelines, once an individual is determined eligible for PASP, a county agency determines that particulars about their treatment plan. However, under the proposed changes, individuals will determine the services to be provided and who will provide those services, so long as the cost of the services does not exceed the cost of the services they currently receive.

Currently, Essex and Hunterdon counties administer their PASP programs under a cash-model, which allows the agencies to specify how much financial support disabled individuals will receive for their treatment, but gives the individuals the freedom to choose their own plan. During testimony provided to the Committee today, disabled individuals and advocates noted that this model has worked best, and empowers disabled consumers to tailor a plan that best fits their needs.

“Essex and Hunterdon counties are good examples of PASP programs that allow individuals to choose their own caregivers,” said Senator Vitale, D-Middlesex. “This legislation would cut through some of the red tape involved with the selection processes and allow disabled residents to have more say in who provides their day to day care.”

Both lawmakers noted that the Office of Legislative Services (OLS) and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) both agreed that there is no additional cost associated with the legislation. The legislation restructures how personal assistance services are provided through the Personal Assistance Services Program (PASP), but does not change the amount of funds appropriated to the program.

This measure now heads to back to the Assembly for concurrence with Senate amendments.

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