A measure sponsored by Assembly Democrats Valerie Vainieri Huttle and Gordon M. Johnson (both D-Bergen) that aims to combat aphasia – a neurological disorder that impairs the expression and understanding of spoken language and reading and writing comprehension – was signed into law on Thursday
“Suddenly being unable to interact with friends and loved ones is a terrifying prospect, and the grim reality for aphasia suffers,” said Vainieri Huttle. “To combat an illness that strikes at our very ability to communicate, we need to ensure that people know about it, know what services are available and fill in the gaps where needed, so aphasia sufferers don’t do so in silence.”
“Losing the ability to communicate with a family member is traumatic for everyone,” said Johnson. “By studying the infrastructure we have in place to help aphasia sufferers and their families, we can effectively work to build up weak areas in the state’s aphasia support network, which will ultimately help reduce the stress of new diagnoses on families and loved ones.”
Under the new law (S-1931/A-2811), a New Jersey Aphasia Study Commission will be created in the state Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS), consisting of 11 members:
– The commissioners of DHSS, the Department of Banking and Insurance and the Department of Human Services; and
– Eight public members:
– Two to be appointed by the Senate President – one who suffers from aphasia and one who provides services to aphasia patients;
– Two to be appointed by the Speaker of the General Assembly – one who suffers from aphasia and one who provides services to aphasia patients; and
– Four members appointed by the governor – one who suffers from aphasia, one who provides services to aphasia patients and two who have a demonstrated expertise in issues relating to aphasia.
The commission will be tasked with:
– Establishing a mechanism to ascertain the prevalence of aphasia in New Jersey;
– Documenting the unmet needs of individuals with aphasia and their families;
– Studying existing model aphasia support programs; and
– Providing recommendations for additional support programs and resources to meet the unmet needs of individuals suffering from aphasia.
The commission will be required to report its findings to the governor and the Legislature within 12 months from its first meeting, at which time, it would disband and expire.