TRENTON The Department of Human Services’ (DHS) Division of Developmental Disabilities (DDD) submitted a plan today to Governor Jon Corzine and the New Jersey Legislature to expand community support and housing for people with developmental disabilities. The plan, “Path to Progress,” describes what will be needed to assist 1,850 of the more than 3,000 people who live in the state’s seven developmental centers to move into community homes over an eight-year period.
Governor Corzine signed a law in August 2006 requiring DDD to submit an “Olmstead” plan that included public input, criteria for candidates interested in moving, the needed resources, and how the funding, services and homes will be provided. Olmstead is a 1999 U. S. Supreme Court decision affirming an individual’s right to live outside an institution.
“New Jersey’s goal is to expand community living for people with developmental disabilities so that every resident of the developmental centers who wants to, and is ready to move to a home in the community, will have that opportunity,” said Acting Commissioner Jennifer Velez. “The plan is part of a continuing dialogue with families and advocates that will enhance services for all people with developmental disabilities and benefit the entire system of care.”
Four public hearings were held in January 2007 to obtain public input for the development of the plan. More than 260 people attended and 76 people provided testimony. After publishing a draft of the Path to Progress plan, the division received 31 comments from people with developmental disabilities, family members, organizations and agency representatives. Stakeholder involvement will continue through an Olmstead Implementation and Planning Advisory Council that will start meeting in June 2007. The council members will include people with developmental disabilities, family members, advocates, provider agency representatives and state agency representatives.
DHS Assistant Commissioner Kenneth Ritchey oversees DDD operations and will guide the implementation of the plan. Ritchey joined DHS in March after running the state of Ohio’s system of care for people with developmental disabilities. “The plan and the ongoing implementation process affords everyone involved with the chance to create new opportunities for people with developmental disabilities,” said Assistant Commissioner Ritchey. “Many of the people living in developmental centers are ready to benefit from the rich and varied experiences of community life.”
Governor Corzine provided $50 million over three years for DDD to use in Fiscal Years 2007 - 2009 to begin Olmstead related efforts. In Fiscal Year 2007, a total of 80 people will move from the developmental centers to community homes, 50 have been moved to date. The plan calls for the movement of 100 people in 2008 and 250 people in each year of the remaining seven years.
The plan outlines the needs of developmental center residents and the resources that will be necessary to support the residents in community settings. The plan details the needs of the residents who want to move, such as: accessible housing; healthcare; nursing; mental health services; physical, speech and occupational therapies; social and recreational activities; and employment opportunities. The assessment of the needs of the residents was designed and conducted with assistance from the Developmental Disabilities Planning Institute (DDPI) at the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT).
The residents of the developmental centers and their families/guardians will have the opportunity to learn about options in community setting and then choose from different types of housing and services. DDD has qualified over 100 agencies to provide residential, employment and day programs, housing, behavior and medical supports to meet varying levels of behavior and medical needs. A new crisis response system and emergency residential capacity will also help individuals remain in the community.
As people move from the developmental centers to community homes, developmental centers will become smaller and eventually evolve into more specialized, regional centers to provide additional support to people with developmental disabilities residing in the community. Specific services such as medical, dental, or respite will be among the available resources.
After an individual moves into the community, DDD will provide face-to-face visits to monitor the transition at 30, 60, 90 and 180 days and annually, up to three years following the move. The transition monitoring team will include community and developmental center staff members who know the person well. After the transition period, monitoring will be through the existing DDD case management process. This emphasis on follow up and monitoring will ensure the health, safety and well-being of each person who transitions to the community from the developmental centers.