By: Hinkle, Fingles & Prior, Attorneys-at-Law

Legislative AlertIt appears as though the State of New Jersey is backing away from its controversial Return Home New Jersey program. This ill-advised policy attempts to relocate over 500 people with severe disabilities placed by New Jersey in appropriate out-of-state programs to in-state settings which are often unable to meet individual’s needs. The State has relied upon various out-of-state placements in order to meet the needs of its residents with disabilities for decades.

Recently however, New Jersey decided to cut off funding to many of these programs and attempt to force people with disabilities into in-state placements which are often inappropriate. This firm is representing a large number of families who oppose such transfers.

A number of families, many of whom are our clients, have also banded together to enlist the assistance of the New Jersey Legislature in order to prevent DDD from continuing its unilateral efforts. A bill introduced in the legislature last fall would have placed a moratorium on Return Home New Jersey and provided certain exceptions to transfers; however, this bill was vetoed by the Governor. A new version of the bill was introduced in December 2014, and permits people with disabilities funded by DDD, to remain in their out-of-state placements if they have been there for a long enough period of time. This firm testified in favor of both bills. Our most recent testimony can be found at http://hinkle1.com/testimony-in-favor-of-s-2600/

While this latest version of the bill was more helpful to families, as initially introduced, a compromise appears to have been reached between the Governor and the legislature which will allow people placed in out-of-state facilities for 25 years or 50% of their lives, to remain where they are. The version we testified in favor of would apply to individuals who are placed for 20 years or 25% of their lives. While we are pleased to see the State back away from its policy of forced relocation and interment, this compromise does not strike an appropriate balance. In addition, although we are still reviewing the language of the compromise bill, there appear to be several other provisions which will be unfavorable to individuals placed out of state. We will provide additional thoughts as we continue to review this bill.

Nevertheless, families whose children do not fall within these exceptions still have a number of legal rights under existing laws which give families significant power to stall or prevent these inhumane or inappropriate transfers. In our experience in dealing with Return Home New Jersey, once challenged, DDD will often either explore more appropriate options or focus its efforts away from transferring the individual at all.

The most recent bill still needs to be passed by the full New Jersey Assembly and Senate before going to the Governor so additional modifications are still possible. Be sure to check out our newsletter and website often for additional updates as they happen.

Published on Mar 10th, 2015. © Copyright 2015 Hinkle, Fingles & Prior, P.C., Attorneys at Law. All rights reserved.
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Hinkle, Fingles, & Prior, P.C., Attorneys at Law is a multi-state law practice with offices in Lawrenceville, Cherry Hill, Florham Park, and Paramus, New Jersey, and Plymouth Meeting and Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania. The firm's partners and associates lecture and write frequently on topics of elder law, estate planning, special needs trusts, guardianship, special education, health care insurance & Medicaid, and accessing adult services, and are available to speak to groups in New Jersey and Pennsylvania at no charge. For more information, visit http://www.hinkle1.com/ or call (609) 896-4200, or (215) 860-2100.