As the State Legislature is on “Summer Recess,” Gary Schaer Continues to Work Tirelessly to Protect Our Vulnerable Population
Sunday, August 12, 2012 • 10:23am
While the State Legislature is officially on recess and members have gone on vacation for the entire summer, Assemblyman Gary Schaer has engaged in a bold initiative to protect New Jersey’s adults with developmental disabilities from abuse, neglect and exploitation in public and private residential centers and day training programs.
The issue of abuse of people with developmental disabilities has been seriously discussed and debated in New Jersey in recent years. Statistics vary, but one such estimate suggests that thirty-five thousand cases of abuse and more than one-thousand deaths have occurred over the past five years. A legislative initiative was launched a few years ago to provide protections for this vulnerable population and was passed by Committees this Spring.
However. its scope was limited to the residents of foster care facilities, leaving those in developmental centers, group homes, nursing homes, supervised apartments and day training programs unprotected. As a result, there was discussion among legislators to resolve the problem by initiating new laws that will provide such protections.
Unfortunately, the Legislature, as a whole, has “taken the summer off.” Those law makers who have vowed to provide the needed protections have taken a summer-long break and will not assume their duties again until after Labor Day. The lone exception has been Gary Schaer, who has suggested that there is no excuse for “taking
a break” when disabled individuals are literally dying or suffering lifelong physical and psychological injurious. As a result, Schaer has worked tirelessly throughout the summer to create the "Protection for Individuals with Developmental Disabilities Residing in Institutional and Community Settings Act."
The new bill, if successfully passed, will provide protections for individuals in the aforementioned residential centers, and will provide a new focus on the manner in which the facilities will be monitored. For example, a previous legislative initiative specifies that only ten per cent of such facilities will be subject to inspections on a random basis.
Schaer’s bill will extend the number of facilities earmarked for random inspections to twenty-five per cent.
Schaer’s bill has been submitted to the Office of Legislative Services and Schaer and his staff continue to revise language. The Assemblyman’s goal is to have the bill referred to a Committee by September, with a timeline for final passage as quickly as the Legislature will allow. During the “summer break”, Schaer has also been working on the issue of insurance protections for people with disabilities. It seems that many insurance companies have been reluctant to provide coverage for such individuals, while eagerly seeking business with non-disabled clients. The Assemblyman would clearly like to eliminate the discrepancy.
It is interesting that the problems that New Jerseyans have in surviving on our current economic environment do not suddenly disappear during the summer months. By contrast, paychecks to lawmakers do not suddenly cease in the summer. Yet, the Legislature, as a whole, has taken a summer break and has ceased doing the “people’s
business”. Yet, a few, like Gary Schaer, have continued to work hard and have not relinquished responsibility for our vulnerable population.
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