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Van Drew Bill Creating Task Force To Develop Plan For Future Of State’s Developmental Centers Clears Budget Panel

Vineland Developmental Center Would Remain Open Under FY2012 Budget Bill

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 a plan for the future of developmental centers in this state, which may include recommendations for facility closures, was approved unanimously today by the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee.

The proposal comes after a provision was included in the FY2012 State budget to close the Vineland Developmental Center, and put forward without a reasonable plan for the residents’ long-term care or consideration of the economic impact of the closure. The Democratic budget bill being considered today by the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee would reverse the proposal to close Vineland, in order to allow for a comprehensive review of all centers under this legislation. This bill (S-2928) would ensure that facility closures are decided upon through a well thought out process that takes into account all of the state’s centers, the needs of facility residents and the potential economic impact of a closure on the region.

“Any proposal to close a developmental center must be based on a comprehensive review of the entire system of care in this state,” said Senator Van Drew (D-Cape May/Cumberland/Atlantic). “This task force will conduct a complete and thorough examination of all of the state’s developmental centers, allowing the members to create a thoughtful plan for the future of these facilities. This will ensure that residents and their families are able to decide the best course of care going forward should a closure occur, and that no one region of the state will be unduly harmed.”

The bill would create an 11-member task force to review and prepare a plan for the future of state developmental centers. The task force would be required to hold at least three public meetings, one in each of the southern, central and northern regions of the state. Under the bill, the task force plan may provide for facility closures in an orderly manner that complies with the U.S. Supreme Court Olmstead decision. Olmstead requires that a person with a developmental disability receive services in the least restrictive setting appropriate to the person’s needs.

“Certainly, I agree that individuals who are willing and able to live in the community should be transitioned out of our facilities,” said Senator Van Drew. “But if we as a state are going to begin the process of moving residents out of developmental centers, we must come up with a comprehensive, humane, fiscally-sound plan for doing so that includes all seven of the state’s facilities. This bill will allow for us to do this in a responsible way that considers the interests of the residents and their families, as well as people who live in each region of the state.”

The bill would require the plan to include a prioritization for the closure of developmental centers the task force determines should be closed and strategies for the development of community placements. The plan may provide for the closure of one or more developmental centers based on the following criteria:

• the number of persons with developmental disabilities residing in the developmental center who have requested a community placement and whose interdisciplinary teams have recommended such a placement;

• the number of persons with developmental disabilities residing in the developmental center and their families or guardians who have expressed a desire to remain in a developmental center;

• the number of persons with developmental disabilities residing in the developmental center who require 24-hour supervision;

• the projected repair and maintenance costs of the developmental center;

• the capacity of the surrounding community to provide services and supports to persons with developmental disabilities; and

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

The task force would include members of the Administration, academia, advocates for people with disabilities and their families, a representative from organized labor, an individual with expertise in evaluating the economic impact of a facility closure, individuals with experience in caring for individuals with developmental disabilities and a person with expertise in legal issues that impact individuals with developmental disabilities. The panel would be required to issue its plan, which would be binding, within six months of organizing.

The bill was approved by a vote of 13-0. It now head to the full Senate for consideration.

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