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Committee Clears Legislation Sponsored by Downey and Vainieri Huttle to Provide Safety to Residents in Group Homes

(TRENTON) – In an effort to improve safety for those with developmental disabilities living in special residential facilities, Assemblywomen Joann Downey (D-Monmouth) and Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen) sponsored legislation approved Thursday by the Assembly Human Services Committee requiring group homes to permit the installation of electronic monitoring devices (EMDs) in common areas upon the request and consent of the residents or their authorized representatives.

The bill (A-4013), also known as Billy Cray’s Law, would enable residents in group homes, or their authorized representatives, to collectively decide if they want EMDs in common areas of the homes, and to individually decide if they want EMDs in their private residential rooms.

The bill is named after Billy Cray who was a 33-year-old man from New Jersey with developmental disabilities. He had suffered from institutional abuse and neglect in a group home since he was a child and in 2017, he was found dead on the floor of his private residential room.

“I appreciate the hard work of the professionals in this field, but too often, we hear negative stories about circumstances where the residents are mistreated and abused,” said Assemblywoman Downey.  “We must prevent what happened to Billy and other awful occurrences that continue to happen.  This legislation will help do that.”

“This bill will protect the privacy rights of those with disabilities while also offering them more comfort, safety, and quality of life. This is necessary to protect those who suffer from abuse and neglect in these homes and we can do that while also respecting their preferences.”

Regarding private single occupancy rooms, each resident will be able to choose if they want to install cameras, making them responsible for payment of the device and installation.  This would also make the footage private property and the group home would not have access to reviewing the tape or moving the camera.

“It is of the utmost importance to provide safety and quality of life for those who may not be able to speak for themselves,” said Assemblywoman Vainieri Huttle.  “Through this bill, we are able to take a much-needed step towards ensuring parents and guardians that their loved ones are protected and safe.”

Privacy and rights are very important and people have different needs and preferences.  Consent must come from all the residents, or their authorized representatives, for cameras in common areas and in the case of private double occupancy, both residents must provide consent.

“It is entirely up to the residents, their parents, or authorized representatives to choose what makes them the most comfortable,” said Vainieri Huttle.  “The appeal for installing cameras has been expressed by many families and we will now be able to utilize these devices and give them a much more peaceful and reassuring occupancy.”