Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Closures Reflect Long-Standing Policy Change

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Closures Reflect Long-Standing Policy Change

Article excerpt

Behind New Jersey closure decree

The decision to close two of the state's developmental centers reflects a long-standing shift in national experts' opinions about the best way to care for the developmentally disabled.

For well over a decade, states have been moving the focus of care for the disabled from institutions to community services. In fact, New Jersey has lagged far behind most other states in shifting its system of care away from reliance on large state institutions. Only two other states -- Mississippi and Arkansas -- have higher rates of institutionalization than New Jersey.

The state provides some level of services to more than 40,000 disabled individuals, of whom 2,340 live in the seven developmental centers. An additional 8,000 (most of whom live with their families) are on a state waiting list for community services like group homes and day programs.

A 1999 U.S. Supreme Court decision held that the disabled must be cared for in the "least restrictive, appropriate setting. …

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