Governor's Plan for the Housing of Disabled New Jerseyans Continues to Lack Logic
Monday, March 11, 2013 • 10:18am
Housing for adult New Jersyans with developmental disabilities continues to be a problem with no solution. Thousands of individuals with disabilities, who currently live with their families, are on a waiting list for long-term hosing. The estimated time in which they will remain on the waiting list is in excess of seven years. In the meantime, their already elderly parents continue to get older, become more infirm, and eventually pass
It has not been unusual for an adult, disabled person to become homeless under such circumstances. Yet, our Governor initiated a plan two years ago to keep the disabled individuals in their family homes. His method has been to simply make the homes more accessible. Unfortunately, the plan initially ignores the problem of the parents being too old and infirm to care for their disabled offspring; nor does it consider the issue of the
parents passing away, leaving the disabled individual with nowhere to go.
The search for appropriate housing for New Jerseyans with developmental disabilities has received considerable media attention in recent weeks. Perhaps the most immediate burning issue has been the proposed closing of two of the State’s developmental centers.
The waiting list for housing becomes longer and longer as more individuals apply for housing assistance. The governor’s office has attempted to ease some of the financial burden by attempting to close as many of the large residential institutions for the developmentally disabled as possible, and sending the residents to community settings. The next obvious problem, however, is that there are not nearly enough appropriate community settings available to serve these individuals.
In attempting to transfer residents of the large institutions to community settings, the governor’s office has cited the “Olmstead” Supreme Court decision. The famous Olmstead case may be the most misinterpreted and misrepresented case by governmental officials in the history of civil jurisprudence.
Olmstead v. L.C., 527 U.S. 581 (1999) was a case originally filed by the Atlanta Legal Aid Society Inc. that eventually made its way from Georgia’s state courts to the Supreme Court of the United States. In essence, the Olmstead decision declared that the Americans with Disabilities Act prohibited the involuntary commitment of adults with disabilities in segregated institutions if they requested community placement and if it could be
ascertained that their needs can be met in the community. Nowhere in the Olmstead decision does it say that all people with disabilities must be transferred to the community.
The “least restrictive alternative” setting that is mandated by the United States Supreme Court is based on the unique needs and degree of disability of the client.
The administration has cited Olmstead and incorrectly stated that the Supreme Court has ordered all large residential institutions to be closed. It is perhaps more obvious that those who have drawn such an interpretation of Olmstead have never read the Supreme Court decision,
People with disabilities are unique and no two individuals are alike. Not all can have their needs met in the community. Furthermore, making the homes of parents of adults with disabilities more accessible will not address the lifelong needs of such individuals after the parents become older, more infirm and pass away.
It is obvious that the Christie administration is overwhelmed by the financial expenditures required to solve this problem. However, simplistic solutions that do not address the problem will eliminate all reasonable problem-solving.
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.