TRENTON – Senator Jeff Van Drew today said he was deeply concerned about the lack of details provided by the Human Services Commissioner about the state’s plan for the Vineland Developmental Center, which is slated for closure in the State FY 2012 budget. After repeatedly questioning Commissioner Jennifer Velez during today’s Budget and Appropriations hearing on a number of issues regarding the proposal, Senator Van Drew requested that she respond in writing to a list of unresolved matters:
“I agree with the principles expressed in Olmstead, however, the stated intention to close the Vineland Developmental Center as a way to work toward complying with the U.S. Supreme Court decision makes no sense. If we are going to transition individuals from developmental centers, we must come up with a comprehensive, humane, fiscally-responsible plan for doing so that includes all seven of the state’s facilities.
“The commissioner provided no valid reason as to why Vineland, among all state facilities, was targeted for closure. What we did learn today is that no analysis has been conducted as to how Cumberland County residents will fare once the Vineland Developmental Center is closed. That is deeply troubling, considering that we are the poorest county in the state.
“I have requested that Commissioner Velez provide responses in writing to a list of questions I have concerning this proposal. For example, why is the state moving forward with closure arrangements despite a request by lawmakers that the state place a moratorium on the process until a legislative review of the proposal is completed? How will critical client services be delivered in a community setting, and how will those services be carried out at the same level and cost as they are now? And, what is the state’s plan for Cumberland County once the facility closes and nearly 1,500 people are without jobs?
“Again, I don’t disagree with Olmstead. And I don’t disagree with moving individuals into the community who are willing and able to live there. I just wholeheartedly disagree with the way the state is proposing to do it.”
“I look forward to continuing my review of this proposal, and to hearing from VDC residents, their family members and the community at our legislative hearing in Vineland on May 17.”