Turner: Let’s Get Our Children Treatment Locally

TRENTON – Senate President Pro Tempore Shirley K. Turner today urged state officials to reduce the number of out-of-state placements for children being provided treatment, so that more children could benefit from being closer to their families.

“We’re spending millions of dollars on a treatment system that separates far too many families. It’s just common sense that we want these kids as close to home as possible,” said Senator Turner, D-Mercer. “These out-of-state placements go against the best interests of the child, their family and the State. More in-state placements will allow families and caseworkers to regularly visit their children, helping to ensure the treatment proceeds quickly and more effectively. They will also save the state considerable money. “

At today’s Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee hearing on the proposed new Department of Children and Families, Senator Turner questioned Human Services Commissioner Kevin Ryan about efforts by the Department to move those children currently in treatment programs in other states to facilities closer to home. The Department of Human Services currently has 301 adolescents in out-of-state programs. The 2004 Child Welfare Reform Plan has sought to reduce the number of out-of-State placements to 150 by December 2006.

Commissioner Ryan agreed for the need to get more of those children in local treatment centers and said that these youth are only placed in out-of-state treatment facilities when no New Jersey facility has the specialized treatment services to meet an adolescent’s needs. According to the Division of Children’s Behavioral Health Services, the Division is aggressively pursuing contracts with New Jersey providers to expand in state specialized treatment capacity.

“We must work to increase local capacity for providing treatment to these kids so that we can start bringing them back from distant states like Florida and Virginia. I hope that we will see considerable progress in this endeavor when the Budget Committee meets with Commissioner Ryan next year,” said Senator Turner.

The FY07 budget recommends $20.75 million to create additional service capacity for children with mental health needs, and $2.45 million to build new capacity for children with developmental disabilities.