New Jersey residents with developmental disabilities will have an easier time receiving publicly funded services at home, thanks to additional funding announced by Gov. Chris Christie in his budget address on Tuesday.
Christie said that the state has settled an eight-year-old lawsuit alleging that New Jersey was violating a 1999 U.S. Supreme Court decision by having too many residents with disabilities live in institutions.
Christie’s announcement of the lawsuit settlement, as well as $83 million in state and federal funding to support community placement and services, was praised by proponents of group homes and for providing services in residents’ homes.
But the people who want the state to keep open two development centers were frustrated and disappointed. They argue that for some residents, living in state-operated institutions is more appropriate.
Both groups have argued vehemently about how the state should spend its limited federal Medicaid funds to care for residents with developmental disabilities.
In his budget address, Christie harshly criticized the state’s use of residential institutions like the developmental centers.
“It is shameful, it is ineffective and -- in this administration -- it is ending,” Christie said.
The lawsuit was filed in 2005 by Disability Rights New Jersey, a federally funded organization that advocates for residents with disabilities. The lawsuit contended that the state had failed to comply with the U.S. Supreme Court’s Olmstead decision, which required that residents with disabilities live in the least restrictive, appropriate environment.
As a result of the settlement, the state will place at least 600 current developmental center residents in a community settings, such as group homes. Residents will now be considered eligible for community placement when treatment professionals determine that it’s appropriate and the residents or their legal guardians don’t oppose the decision.
Residents or guardians still have the ability to express a preference for developmental centers over community placement. In cases where the residents and their legal guardians disagree about the resident’s placement, Disability Rights New Jersey has been given the power under the settlement to investigate and resolve the situations, according to state officials.
Christie said he was proud to announce the settlement, adding that in response to it, the state has increased funds for community-based services, reduced the waiting list for services provided in residents’ homes, and expanded group homes.
“We’re allowing people with disabilities to live where they and their families want them to live: at home, in the community, among family and friends,” he said.
The $83 million in funding consists of 3 components: $41.8 million in Christie’s budget proposal for the fiscal year starting on July 1, enough for 788 more residents to receive community services; $21.3 million in the current fiscal year; and $19.7 million to support the state office overseeing the transfer of residents from developmental centers to community placement.
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