Justice Department Expands Abuse Investigations In New Jersey
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
June 20, 2003
WOODBRIDGE, NEW JERSEY--Findings of abuse and neglect at New Lisbon Developmental Center have prompted investigators from the U.S. Department of Justice to expand their investigation to include Woodbridge Developmental Center, another New Jersey institution housing people with developmental and other disabilities.
The investigation team from the Department's Civil Rights Division reported in an April 8 letter, made public this week, that the New Lisbon facility is not adequately protecting its residents, that many are inappropriately housed in the facility, and that treatment for many is inadequate.
"There are numerous conditions and practices that violate the constitutional and statutory rights of New Lisbon residents," said the letter sent to Gov. James E. McGreevey by Assistant U.S. Attorney General Ralph F. Boyd Jr.
"From January 2001 to May 2002, there were over 500 incidents classified as moderate or major, including resident-on-resident assaults, abuse or neglect, and deaths," Boyd wrote.
The team also found that New Lisbon's own staff identified at least 200 residents -- roughly 35 percent of the 549 residents housed at the facility -- who want to live in the community, but who are not being allowed to do so. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled four years ago that "unnecessarily institutionalizing" people with developmental and other disabilities violates the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Additionally, the investigators found that more than half of the residents at New Lisbon have additional diagnoses of mental illness, but that those diagnoses are often inaccurate, treatment is inadequate, and many residents are overmedicated or physically restrained.
"It made me sick," said Ethan Ellis, executive director for the New Jersey Developmental Disabilities Council. "Based on the findings reported in the letter, there is no reason to keep that place (New Lisbon) open."
There are 3,171 people with developmental disabilities housed in New Jersey's seven institutions.
"Feds extend probe of facilities for disabled" (The Star-Ledger)
"A History of Neglect": New Lisbon Developmental Center (Inclusion