Would State’s New Rules for Developmentally Disabled Do More Harm Than Good?

Source: NJ Spotlight Health
Two key provisions of a state plan to better integrate people with intellectual or developmental disabilities into their communities are meeting fierce resistance from those who provide housing and other services to those disabled…
Opponents are focused on provisions requiring programs that operate during the daytime to hold 75 percent of their activities outside of their facility and steering state funding for new housing toward developments where no more than 25 percent of the residents have disabilities…“The facility should serve as a hub and central meeting location, while the majority of programming is offered out in the community in activities such as volunteering, pre-vocational training, recreation, etc.,” according to the plan.
Thomas Baffuto, executive director of the Arc of New Jersey, said that the state proposal exceeds federal requirements…The day programs frequently operate in facilities other than the smaller group homes where many people with developmental disabilities now live. While such facilities do offer community activities to those who are interested in and able to participate – such as trips to shopping malls, bowling, and part-time jobs and volunteer work – some disabled people are better served by activities based in the central facility, Baffuto said.
William Testa, executive director of the Arc of Morris County, said the day programs should be able to focus on meeting their clients’ individual needs. “Are we going to have a feeding tube administered in the food court at the Rockaway Townsquare Mall every Tuesday and Thursday to meet a state mandate?” Testa asked. “I mean, it’s completely illogical to proceed in this direction.”
Opponents of the provisions also pointed out that the federal government is giving states four years to implement their plans, but the New Jersey Department of Human Services plan would require complying with many of the provisions by the end of 2016. This timeframe drew criticism from Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen), chairwoman of the Assembly Human Services Committee, which recently convened a hearing to discuss the issue. “The state likes to rush plans without a plan in place” to implement them, Huttle complained.
The housing requirement is meant to increase housing options for intellectually and developmentally disabled people, since the bulk of current state funding for such housing is going to projects where all residents are disabled. But Thomas M. Toronto, president of Bergen County’s United Way, said this provision would effectively shut down a series of developments his organization is planning across northern New Jersey. They would be based on the concept of Airmount Woods in Ramsey, which exclusively serves people with autism.
While the state supports small group homes with no more than six residents, in which residents get intensive support and attention, state officials are looking to have better-integrated options for those who would don’t need that a high level of care. But Toronto said this “defies logic,” since many residents and their families would prefer to live in developments built for people with the same condition, such as autism.
The state will hold a public session on the plan Thursday from 10 a.m. to noon at the Department of Children and Families Training Facility, 30 Van Dyke Ave., New Brunswick. The federal deadline for the state to submit its plan is March 17.

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