Mission and Decision of the Governor’s “Taskforce on the Closing of New Jersey’s Developmental Centers” is Not Progress, But a Tragedy
Friday, July 27, 2012 • 11:21am
The recent announcement of the decision by the “Governor’s Task Force on the Closing of New Jersey’s Developmental Centers” has yet to hit home with many New Jerseyans who pay little attention to current events during the summer months. Those apathetic citizens will react when they return from the sun and ocean breeze of the Jersey Shore after Labor Day. At that time, discussions will begin about the implications that the binding decision will have for the residents of the centers and for several geographic regions of the State.
The Task Force decided that the Vineland Developmental Center will remain open. In its place, the developmental centers in Woodbridge and Totowa will be closed. The people in the Vineland region will applaud the decision for two reasons: First, there really were no truly acceptable alternatives for the Vineland residents in the community. Secondly, closing the Vineland Center would have eliminated jobs and drained the economy in that part of the State.
Senator Jeff Van Drew, a Democrat who represents the Legislative District where the Vineland center is located, has been victorious, and enthusiastically proclaimed that the decision is “good news for the hundreds of women with developmental disabilities who call the center home, for the more than one thousand employees of the facility and for
the entire region”. Van Drew lobbied the Governor’s office and the members of the Task Force for many months in his quest to preserve the institution.
Nevertheless, Van Drew failed to mention the fate of the nearly 700 residents of the Woodbridge and Totowa facilities. Appropriate community settings and services are no more in existence in the northern part of the State than they are in the Southern region.
Many experts have suggested that replicating such services in the community will take many years or even decades. Furthermore, at no time did Van Drew mention the effect that the closing of the northern facilities will have on jobs and the economy.
This writer has publicly suggested on numerous occasions that the Governor’s proposal to close these centers was based on money and not the quality of services. Those who support the closings claim that New Jersey has a higher proportion of the developmentally disabled population in the larger institutions than other states. What they fail to point out is that New Jersey lags far behind other states in creating appropriate settings and services in the community.
The real tragedy of the Task Force’s mission is that it now pits geographic regions of the State against each other. The Cumberland County region is perceived to be a winner, while the Passaic/Bergen County region is considered to be a loser. This is not progress, and it is unlikely that anyone will benefit from the Task Force’s decision.
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