(TRENTON) – Following Thursday’s meeting of the Assembly Human Services Committee to discuss abuse and neglect of individuals with disabilities in group homes and other congregate care facilities, committee chair Assemblywoman Joann Downey (D-Monmouth) released the following statement:
“About one in five Americans have a disability, and unfortunately many will become victims of crime at some point in their lives. People with disabilities deserve safety and security, especially in the place they call home. Their families and guardians deserve respect, transparency, and a collaborative relationship with the group home staff.
“In May 2019, New Jersey saw the devastating impact of severe abuse and neglect at group homes owned by Bellwether Behavioral Health. Residents were forced to live in filthy, unsafe conditions, and failed to receive critical medical care. The situation was inhumane and wholly unacceptable. I strongly supported the Department of Human Services’ decision to shutter Bellwether’s operations for good.
“It’s clear that we are not where we need to be on delivering compassionate care to people with disabilities. We need to bring attention and respond to systemic abuse in group homes so that we may prevent future tragedies. We also acknowledge that there are good people who as direct support professionals care for our loved ones but may need more training, support and a career path to earn higher wages in this underpaid field. It is important that this workforce grows stronger and remains constant in the residents’ lives.
“I’d like to thank everyone who testified to advocate on behalf of the disability community, particularly those who shared stories of loved ones facing abuse and neglect in group homes. We will continue to fight to ensure those with disabilities receive the respect and care they deserve.”