Assembly Committee Clears Measures to Assist Individuals with Developmental Disabilities

The Assembly Appropriations Committee on Thursday advanced two pieces of legislation that aim to support New Jersey’s residents with developmental disabilities as they transition out of high school and prepare for independent, productive and meaningful adult lives.

The first measure (A-6230), sponsored by Assemblymen Daniel Benson, Pedro Mejia and Andrew Zwicker, seeks to train new direct support professionals who would provide critical care and support to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The bill would establish the Direct Support Professional Career Development Center at the New Jersey Community College Consortium for Workforce and Economic Development. The center would provide high school students at risk of not graduating with a potential career path to become direct support professionals.

The second measure (A-6228), also sponsored by Benson and Zwicker, along with Assemblywoman Shanique Speight, would establish a county college-based adult center to assist individuals with developmental disabilities up to the age of 24 in their transition from high school to postsecondary education, adult employment and independent living.

Upon the bills advancing, Assembly sponsors Benson (D-Mercer, Middlesex), Mejia (D-Bergen, Hudson), Speight (D-Essex) and Zwicker (D-Somerset, Mercer, Middlesex, Hunterdon) issued the following joint statement:

“As the COVID-19 pandemic carries on, it is more important than ever to ensure that our residents with developmental disabilities have the tools they need to transition out of our public school system and successfully take on the world.

“Disruptions to the school year have only added to the stress that many students with developmental disabilities feel as they age out of the public school system and are forced to adjust to a new normal. We have the opportunity to provide these individuals with much needed support that will put them in a better position to lead independent and rewarding lives through higher education or by joining the workforce.

“This legislation will let us continue to support them with trained direct support professionals as well as services, programs and resources that will make a difference.”

The bills now head to the Speaker for further consideration.