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Measure Would Also Ensure that Mental Health and Disability Patients are Receiving the Appropriate Level of Care in the Most Suitable Environment

After receiving testimony today on the findings of the State Mental Health Facilities Evaluation Task Force, the Assembly Human Services Committee advanced a bill sponsored by Chairwoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle that would grant the legislature the authority to void closures of state psychiatric hospitals or developmental centers.

“The mess that arose out of the closure of Marlboro and the discussions surrounding Ancora were a lesson that we should not rush blindly into decisions of this magnitude when it affects so many of our most vulnerable residents,” said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). “Our members are finely attuned to the needs of their district which can help lend added insight into critical decisions of this nature.”

Specifically, the bill (A-2880) would require the Commissioner of Human Services to provide the legislature with the information necessary to review and consider the reasons for a decision and its anticipated impact on the residents and employees of the facility. This requirement would pertain to any decision to close one of these facilities or privatize any of its services, if the commissioner finds that the decision shall result in the abolition of 100 or more non-vacant, full-time positions at the facility affected by the decision.

Under current law, the Legislature has no formal role in the closure process. This bill would give the legislature the authority to void the decision by passing a resolution in both houses.

Furthermore, the bill would ensure that clients of the Department of Human Services receive appropriate care in the setting that best suits their individual needs by requiring the Division of Developmental Disabilities (DDD), in concert with the Division of Mental Health Services, to adequately inform clients and their families of the full range of options and services available for both mental health and developmental disability treatment.

“Every person suffering from mental illness or a developmental disability has a unique set of circumstances. We cannot employ a one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to providing the services they need. We need to ensure that they are aware of the available options and that their treatment is tailored to ensure the best possible outcome,” added Vainieri Huttle.

The bill was released by a vote of 6-2-1.