TRENTON – The head of Arc of New Jersey told the legislative panel studying developmental disabilities centers that New Jersey is behind the curve when adapting to the community home models for residents with developmental disabilities.
Executive Director Thomas Baffuto said today that most states have adopted the model, but New Jersey is still considering “if” it should go that route, instead of “how” best to create more group homes. Arc does operate some community-based homes. Presently, there are some 8,000 people on a waiting list, and it could take 10 years before a resident gets a slot.
“New Jersey continues to debate if they should be closed,” Baffuto told the panel.
He called for closing the state’s seven development disabilities centers over the next several years.
He said residents have a right to be in the least restrictive environment. He said when state-run institutions were built in the late 1800s, they were built because there was nothing like them before. Now there are many more options, adding that “community-based support services” provide the most integrated setting.
Outside of capital structure costs, Baffuto admitted that community homes don’t really save costs on administering services to residents, compared to state-run institutions, like some proponents have said. The main argument for having them, Baffuto said, is that the quality of life for residents is substantially better.