Former State Disability Official Cites the Danger of Injury, Death when Transferring Developmental Center Residents to Community
Monday, September 3, 2012 • 8:27am
A former State official who directed services for people with developmental disabilities in New Jersey has declared that New Jersey’s plan to close two developmental centers and place the residents in the community is flawed and presents unacceptable risks. Bernie White, who served as the Deputy Director of the New Jersey Division of
Developmental Disabilities for 32 years, revealed that a high rate of mortality arose nationally when residents were transferred from the large developmental centers to the community,
Currently, the State plans to close the Woodbridge and Totowa developmental centers. According to White, 73% of the Woodbridge residents are non-ambulatory, making the transfer to community settings highly dangerous. Two years ago, the Division of Developmental Disabilities listed the necessary components for a successful transfer to
the community. Those components included
mental health services
physical, speech and occupational therapies
social and recreational activities, and
opportunities for employment”
Sources have indicated that virtually no prospective community placements have all of these components, and the transfer of non-ambulatory residents from Woodbridge to the community will likely result in an inordinate number of deaths during the first year. Secondly, the plan for such transfers does not include the guarantee that the residents will live closer to their families, which is considered a necessary ingredient for survival and success.
White also cited the results of California’s transfer of residents from developmental centers to community settings, in which the death rates were 47% higher than if the residents remained in the larger centers. White also indicated that an attempt by Ohio to transfer residents to the community had similar results.
New Jersey must consider the probability that the plan to close the Woodbridge and Totowa Developmental Centers may be premature. Furthermore, one must also consider the probability that the recommendation by the Governor’s Taskforce on the closing of the developmental centers was made based on pressure from State Administration.
We are already engaged in a battle to protect New Jersey’s citizens with developmental disabilities form abuse, neglect and exploitation that has resulted in many deaths and lifelong injuries. The current move to close the developmental centers exemplifies the concept that these vulnerable citizens are without rights and their very lives and physical and emotional welfare are considered to be without value.
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