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 approved by the Senate by a vote of 36-0.

“The MSU is specifically intended as an alternative to imprisonment for special needs prisoners with developmental disabilities, and we need safeguards in place to ensure that individuals who are incarcerated at the MSU belong there,” said Senator Vitale, D-Middlesex, the Chairman of the Senate Health Committee. “The MSU is not a traditional treatment facility, and the regimented treatment and care provided is not necessarily appropriate for every individual with developmental disability. We need to ensure that the facility is not abused, and that developmentally disabled New Jerseyans have access to the appropriate care.”

The bill, S-1610, 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.

“The MSU caters to those individuals who have been deemed dangerous to themselves and others, and we need policies in place to ensure that developmentally disabled people that do not belong in the care of the MSU are not put needlessly into harm’s way,” said Senator Vitale. “The resources of the MSU are better suited to caring for patients that fit their desired profile than as an all-purpose facility for the developmentally disabled. This bill gives the MWU greater ability to accomplish its intended mission, without jeopardizing the well-being of individuals who should not be in the program.”

The bill now heads to the Assembly, and is currently pending consideration by the Assembly Health and Human Services Committee.

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