Coalition Formed to Battle Proposed Closing of Woodbridge, Totowa Developmental Centers
Saturday, September 15, 2012 • 10:03am
The State’s plan to close the Woodbridge and Totowa Developmental Centers has elicited a strong response from the family members of residents, and at least three unions. The group believes that the residents of the two State Institutions for people with developmental disabilities will be “removed from their homes” and face an uncertain
future in community settings that may not be prepared to care for them.
A coalition has been formed that includes the Woodbridge Developmental Parents Association, the parents and family members of the residents at the North Jersey Developmental Center (Totowa), the Communication Workers of America (CWA), the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers (IFPTE), and the
American Federation, of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME).
The proposed closings are the result of a binding recommendation by the Governor’s Taskforce on the Closing of Developmental Centers. Originally, the plan was to close the Vineland Developmental Center. However, a series of protests by the family members of the Vineland residents and Senator Jeff Van Drew (D., Cape May/Cumberland) led to the recommendation to close the Woodbridge and Totowa Developmental Centers, instead.
Family members of the residents have complained that the Developmental Centers are the only true home for many of the residents. In addition, public officials have complained that closing the two centers will have a detrimental effect on the local economies.
Members of the Paterson City Council have issued statements asking that the Totowa Center remain open.
The Taskforce recommended that the two centers be closed within the next five years. However, the coalition has been told by Human Services Commissioner Jennifer Velez that the closings may occur within the next eighteen months.
Advocates for the developmentally disabled have argued for years that appropriate medical, social and other related services that are available in the developmental centers are rarely replicated in the community. Several State Legislators, including Assemblywoman Valerie Huttle (D., Bergen) and Senator Loretta Weinberg (D., Bergen,) have asked that the centers remain open until such community services are clearly made available. In addition, parents and family members have complained that they were not consulted regarding the center closings. In addition, they have complained that their disabled loved ones are being transferred to the community against their will. Such a move is a clear violation of the Olmstead U.S. Supreme Court decision that paved the way for such transfers.
Olmstead v. L.C., 527 U.S. 581 (1999), was a United States Supreme Court decision that determined that the residents of State Institutions were covered under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Two individuals in the State of Georgia who were classified as having “Mental Retardation” and schizophrenia, requested transfers
to the community, but were denied. Lois Curtis and Elaine Wilson filed litigation against the State. Eventually, the United States Supreme Court determined that the two individuals had a right to be transferred to the community, provided that (1) they were willing to be transferred, (2) a diagnostic team determined that they were capable of
surviving in a community setting, and (3) that appropriate services were available in the community setting. At no time did the United States Supreme Court mandate that all developmental centers be closed or that all residents be placed in the community.
Apparently, the Governor is sponsoring this deinstitutionalization plan with the anticipation of saving money, at the expense of the welfare of the residents.
The Guest Column is our readers' opportunity to write about a given issue or topic in an in-depth and educational manner.
The opinions expressed herein are the writer's alone, and do not reflect the opinions of TheAlternativePress.com or anyone who works for TheAlternativePress.com. TheAlternativePress.com is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the writer.