VINELAND – There’s an 8,000- to 10,000-person waiting list statewide for developmental care, according to state Sen. Loretta Weinberg, (D-37), of Teaneck, including 4,100 priority placements.
Given that fact, Weinberg said of the planned closing of Vineland Developmental Center, “There’s something about this whole plan that’s counterintuitive.” Closing the center would require placements for its 380 current residents.
“We want to put people in more (community-based) placements,” Weinberg said to Department of Human Services Commissioner Jennifer Velez. “(Yet) we don’t have enough placements for them.”
“We have thousands of folks out in the community, dying to get into a community setting,” State Sen. Jeff Van Drew, (D-1), of Dennis Township, said. “I don’t understand…why don’t we take care of them first.”
Velez said situations like returning out-of-state care recipients to New Jersey and other emergent issues account for a large portion of the waiting list.
“There’s a lot of pressure on one bed at any time,” Velez said, but many of the people on the waiting list are not currently institutionalized, therefore not being deprived of their civil rights, according to the Olmstead decision.
“When you’re in your own home, you’re not in an institutionalized setting,” Velez said, “It’s not a civil right (for community placement).”
Also, many individuals on the waiting list are not, contrary to public representations, asking “necessarily for individual placements,” she said.
Velez recalled testifying in 1998 before the state Legislature regarding the initiative at that time to end the developmental care waiting list in 10 years.
Obviously, that didn’t happen; Velez said looking at the waiting list means more than just moving people off of it. “We really have to re-define what is the waiting list,” she said, including some of the systematic triggers that land people there.