Community-based advocates urge closure of Vineland Developmental Center

BLACKWOOD – Advocates for community-based facilities called for the closure of Vineland Developmental Center Tuesday, saying it’s an example of outdated costly institutions.

Kim Todd, CEO of the New Jersey Association of Community Providers, which represents 35,000 care workers, said the state can’t continue to fund both large institutions and community-based centers. She said 11 states currently have no institutions.

“It will put New Jersey on a positive path, in step with the rest of the nation and promote better outcomes,” Todd said at Tuesday’s budget hearing here.

Ann Martinelli, president of Advocates for Alternatives, called the state’s seven developmental disabilities centers “large and aging.” She added that having more community facilities will reduce the waiting lists at the state-run centers.

“Public policy is not about making everyone happy – it’s about serving all citizens equitably,” she said. “Right now our public policy for people with developmental disabilities is not equitable.”

Michelle Boggan, executive director of Community Options, also supports Vineland’s closure, and encouraged the state to invest more in community facilities, saying it improves patients’ quality of life by giving them more freedom. She said there’s currently an 8,000-person waiting list for such facilities.

Sen. Jeff Van Drew, (D-1) , of Cape May, whose district includes Vineland, again expressed disagreement at the idea of shutting it down, saying that a “wholesale closure” of the center “doesn’t serve us well.”

“I am sure that’s not the appropriate action,” he said.  “There has to be more of a process to this. There’s a place for institutions and community services.”

He added that thousands of jobs would be lost with Vineland center’s closure, something that’s intolerable.

“The repercussions are major,” he said.