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, including for facility closures, received final legislative approval today in the Assembly. It now heads to the desk of Governor Christie.
Senator Van Drew introduced the bill after a provision was included in the FY2012 State budget to close the Vineland Developmental Center. The bill (S-2928) would provide 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 region.
“My primary concern with the proposal to close the Vineland Developmental Center was that it was put forward without a clear plan for the future of the residents and no consideration as to how a closure would affect the region economically,” said Senator Van Drew (D-Cape May/Cumberland/Atlantic). “I have always believed that any plan to close a developmental center must be based on a thorough assessment of all of the state’s facilities. This task force allows for that process to occur, and most importantly, ensures that Vineland will not close without a full and comprehensive review of the entire state.”
The bill would create the five-member “Task Force on the Closure of State Developmental Centers.” The panel would 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. The task force would be required to meet within 30 days of the majority of the members being appointed, and to complete their work no earlier than 90 days following organization and no later than 180 days.
“Certainly I believe 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 develop recommendations for doing so that are based on a complete analysis of 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.
“I thank the governor and Senate President Sweeney for their continued dialogue on this issue and for working to create a resolution that addresses the needs of our residents and of our state.”
The bill was approved by both houses of the Legislature in June, and later conditionally vetoed by the governor. The Senate gave final approval to the recommended changes in September, by a vote of 38-0. The Assembly accepted the Governor’s recommendations today and approved the bill by a vote of 74-1-4.