TRENTON – Today, Senate President Richard J. Codey announced that State Senator Joseph F. Vitale will continue to serve as Chair of the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee in the new legislative session, a post he has held since Senate Democrats achieved a majority in 2003.
“I’m honored to once again have the opportunity to lead the Committee as we take on the big issues in providing adequate and affordable health care in New Jersey, and ensuring quality state programs for the elderly, disabled and at-risk children,” said Senator Vitale, D-Middlesex, who also served as co-Chair of the Health Committee in the 01-02 Legislative Session with then-Senator John Matheussen, R-Gloucester and Camden.
“We have a growing number of people in New Jersey who can’t afford decent health care, and we are still struggling to meet the demands of the court-mandated overhaul of our child protection services,” added Senator Vitale. We have our work cut out for us, but I look forward to working with the talented legislators assigned to the Senate Health Committee to find solutions for the people we represent.”
Senator Vitale said that in the upcoming legislation session, he would like the Committee to explore ways to expand health care options for the uninsured, to begin progress towards universal health care coverage for all State residents.
“We have a moral obligation to provide access to care for all New Jerseyans,” said Senator Vitale. “While I understand that such a paradigm shift in how we administer health care in New Jersey doesn’t happen overnight, we can at least begin the process, and do more for those State residents who currently are uninsured. Expanding the State’s safety net programs is the first step to ensuring universal coverage.”
Senator Vitale added that the Committee will also look at ways to improve services for the mentally ill and developmentally disabled. He noted that New Jersey has the highest rate of autism prevalence in the nation, and that we must provide services for families living with the disease, as well as identify risks for the development of autism spectrum disorders.
“For New Jerseyans living with developmental disability and their families, life can be very difficult, especially without the proper support structures in place,” said Senator Vitale. “The current system does a lot for families in need, but we must constantly be looking for ways to improve services and meet the changing needs of the developmentally disabled population in the Garden State.”
Senator Vitale said that one of challenges facing the Committee in the coming legislative session will be strengthening New Jersey’s hospital system. He said hospital closings must be monitored and regulated, to ensure New Jerseyans aren’t left without access to health care.
“In many communities, hospitals are the first and only point of health care contact for the working poor and uninsured,” said Senator Vitale. “We need to monitor the financial issues plaguing New Jersey’s hospitals, and protect the most utilized facilities from closure.”