TRENTON – A bill sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg which would require the Department of Human Services (DHS) to conduct a follow-up study on the well-being of all former residents of the North Princeton Developmental Center, which was closed in 1998, was approved by the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee today by a vote of 9-0 with one abstention.
“With the former residents of the North Princeton Developmental Center, we have a unique opportunity to study the impact that closure and relocation of residents in our State’s developmental centers has on their overall well-being,” said Senator Weinberg, D-Bergen. “Certainly, there is no one-size-fits-all treatment option for individuals with developmental disabilities, but we want to make sure we’re adequately funding the programs that these individuals depend on, whether that’s in the community residential setting or in one of the remaining developmental centers in the State. Having a historic perspective of how former residents at North Princeton are faring, 14 years out, would give the State some perspective in our current policy decisions regarding care for people living with developmental disabilities.”
The bill, S-1307, would require DHS to conduct a follow-up study from all former residents, their family members or guardians as appropriate, and staff members providing support and services to the former residents of North Princeton Developmental Center in Montgomery Township. The bill would require the study to assess the well-being of former residents by examining, at a minimum, data concerning:
• the types of residential settings and day activities, if any, of former residents;
• the number of moves to different placements, if any, experienced by former residents;
• for former residents who are living in the community, their preference between living in the developmental center or living in a community-setting, based on a comparison of the former residents’ experiences in each residential setting;
• former residents’ ability to obtain necessary services and support;
• former residents’ involvement with law enforcement, if any;
• mortality rates of former residents;
• former residents’ competency in the areas of cognition, self-care and mobility;
• former residents’ contact with family members or guardians, as appropriate, and peers;
• behavioral changes in former residents;
• utilization of health services by former residents; and
• the attitude of former residents and their family members about the former residents’ current quality of life, including, but not limited to, economic well-being, productivity, personal safety and health.
The bill would require the study to contrast the data collected on the former residents with a comparison group of persons with developmental disabilities still residing a developmental center. The bill would require DHS to compile the results of the study in a report, and to electronically transmit that report to the Governor and the Legislature, and make the report available on the Department’s website.
Following the closure of the North Princeton Developmental Center in 1998, the State conducted multiple follow-up studies of former residents at three, nine, 15 and 27 months after the residents were relocated. These studies were funded and conducted by the Developmental Disabilities Planning Institute at the New Jersey Institute of Technology.
“Immediately after the State closed the North Princeton Developmental Center, we began following up with former residents, and determined that residents were doing as well, if not better, than their counterparts living in other developmental centers,” said Senator Weinberg. “It will be interesting to see if the long-term well-being of former residents has been maintained. At the end of the day, this follow-up study will be an invaluable tool to help us direct State funding and resources to the appropriate avenues of care for individuals living with developmental disabilities.”
The bill now heads to the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee for review before going to the full Senate for consideration.