Vainieri Huttle & Wagner: One Size Does Not Fit All for Our Most Vulnerable

As Governor Christie continues to push for the closure of several developmental centers throughout New Jersey, the Assembly Human Services Committee on Thursday will hear legislation (A-3870) sponsored by Assemblywomen Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Connie Wagner and severals that would require the state to retain at least one developmental center in each region – north, west, central, and south.

“I applaud Governor Christie’s newfound commitment to individuals with developmental disabilities, and I look forward to working with him to finally tackle the waiting list and create more housing options for our most vulnerable. However, the governor is using a one-size-fits-all approach that ignores the needs and wishes of many of the residents of our state developmental centers and their families,” said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen).

At a recent public hearing on the pending closures of the North Jersey and Woodbridge Developmental Centers, co-chaired by Huttle and attended by Wagner, members of the Assembly and Senate Human Services Committees heard testimony on the impact these closures would have on both patients and family members.

“For almost five hours, family members begged us to help keep the centers open so their loved ones could stay in their homes. If these centers close, there will be no developmental centers in the northern and central regions of the state. Many residents of these centers will either go into another developmental center or into a community home in another part of the state. This will make it very difficult for siblings and parents, many of whom are senior citizens, to provide the support and supervision that is invaluable to our vulnerable population,” said Wagner (D-Bergen/Passaic).

“The governor has made light of the cries for help from the hundreds of parents and siblings who showed up to testify, some waiting hours for an opportunity to share what the closures of the developmental centers will mean for their loved ones. The residents of the centers and their families deserve more respect than that,” said Vainieri Huttle.

As Chair of the Human Services Committee, Vainieri Huttle led a statewide tour of New Jersey’s developmental centers for her committee. She noted, however, that Gov. Christie has not visited either of the centers that he has proposed to close.

“I have been to all seven of our state’s centers and I have met with the residents and their families. The centers are not the institutions of the past. They care for our most profoundly developmentally disabled citizens and comply with rigorous federal standards,” added Vainieri Huttle.