(TRENTON) – Aiming to ensure the needs of individuals with disabilities are accommodated during public health emergencies, Assemblyman Eric Houghtaling (D-Monmouth) recently introduced legislation to designate a State level emergency response liaison for people with special needs.
“Last year, we became acutely aware of the gaps in our preparedness as a State and as a country for a public health emergency,” said Houghtaling. “I have personally heard from many people with special needs and their families who felt their needs were not being prioritized amid the COVID-19 pandemic. During this public health crisis and any future emergencies, we must be better prepared to take care of our most vulnerable.”
Under the bill (A-5302), the director of the State Office of Emergency Management would designate an emergency response liaison for those with special needs. The liaison would coordinate and oversee emergency response efforts for this community. The official tasked with this duty would work with local officials to ensure all emergency plans take into account people with special needs, including distributing pertinent information, raising awareness and implementing safety and evacuation measures, among others.
“The emergency response liaison would serve as an advocate for people with special needs across our state,” said Houghtaling. “It would be their charge to ensure our emergency preparedness and response includes comprehensive action to help those with disabilities.”
The measure now goes to the Assembly Speaker for further review.