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Vitale Bill To Protect Developmentally Disabled Individuals Approved

TRENTON – A bill sponsored by Senator Joseph F. Vitale which would require a court order for admittance into the Moderate Security Unit (MSU) at the New Lisbon Developmental Center was unanimously approved by the Assembly today, receiving final legislative approval.

“The MSU at New Lisbon serves a vital role in providing a structured environment for developmentally disabled individuals who are prone to violence,” said Senator Vitale, D-Middlesex, the Chairman of the Senate Health Committee. “Some flourish under this kind of setup, but it’s not intended for everybody. We need strict regulations in place to ensure that the MSU isn’t misused as a day care center for developmentally disabled residents, when placing nonviolent residents in the program jeopardizes their safety.”

The bill, S-1047, would require that a person could not be admitted into the MSU without the order of a court of competent jurisdiction. The bill also outlines the eligibility and placement of individuals who are developmentally disabled and involved in criminal proceedings, and establishes guidelines for the period of stay at the MSU and the terms of their release. In addition, the bill allows those in the care of the MSU to voluntarily opt to stay after their required term at the facility, if they so choose.

“We must have protections in place to avoid having developmentally disabled individuals committed to the MSU without just cause,” said Senator Vitale. “The MSU is not designed to serve as an ordinary developmental center for those suffering from cognitive disabilities, but rather as a structured facility to serve those in need of a more disciplined treatment approach. We must ensure that only those who belong in the MSU setting are sent there.”

The bill now heads to the Governor to be signed into law.

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