During the last few years, the issue of abuse and neglect of individuals with developmental disabilities has become an important topic of discussion within the disability community.
Last year, the State Legislature passed “Tara’s Law”, which was designed to protect developmentally disabled residents in foster care, and Governor Christie signed it quickly. Unfortunately, the bill excluded the residents of developmental centers, group homes, nursing homes, and supervised apartments, along with those in day training centers. As a result, a few members of the Assembly attempted to correct the oversight by introducing a bill that would include those with developmental disabilities in all residential settings.
Assembly bill 4021, the "Protection for Individuals with Developmental Disabilities in Institutional and Community Settings Act", is designed “to provide protections for individuals with developmental disabilities residing in community residences for the developmentally disabled, developmental centers, private licensed facilities, and nursing homes. ….Community residences for the developmentally disabled" are defined in the bill as including, but not limited to, group homes and supervised apartments. The bill also includes protections for individuals with developmental disabilities who attend day programs in the community”
Unfortunately, no comparable bill has been introduced in the Senate. Senators Jennifer Beck, who sponsored the original “Tara’s Law”, and Barbara Buono, who is currently the Democratic Gubernatorial candidate, initially promised to sponsor the bill. Nevertheless, it appears that politics and prior commitments have interfered with that plan.
However, the families of the vulnerable population that would be served by such a bill are dismayed by the delay in protecting their loved ones from undue harm. Varying reports with conflicting data are in agreement that hundreds of residents have suffered life-long injuries and death, as a result of such abuse.
It is unfortunate that political priorities have earned greater importance than the life or death of any New Jerseyan, let alone those disabled citizens who may not be able to speak for themselves.