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Advocacy Group Sues State To Switch Money From Institutions To Community Supports
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
September 30, 2005

TRENTON, NEW JERSEY--The state of New Jersey is violating federal laws by illegally confining people that have developmental disabilities in state-operated institutions, a lawsuit filed Thursday alleged.

The federally-mandated disability advocacy group New Jersey Protection and Advocacy, Inc. (NJP&A) said in a press statement that the state's Department of Human Services ignores the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, and the Medicaid Act. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June of 1999 that unnecessarily segregating people with disabilities in institutions is a form of discrimination.

The suit claims that -- by the state's own estimates -- nearly one-half of the 3,100 people housed in developmental centers could live in the community in group homes, supervised apartments or with their families. The state instead spends most of its money on running the institutions instead of developing "suitable community residences and programs to support their return to the community."

"Those individuals the State has kept waiting in institutions long past their need for such restrictive settings should have to wait no longer," said Sarah Mitchell, NJP&A's executive director and president.

The suit seeks a court order requiring New Jersey to develop and implement a community integration plan with "reasonable" timelines for moving individuals into the community with appropriate supports and services.

According to the most recent data from the study "State of the States in Developmental Disabilities", New Jersey in 2002 had the third largest population of people in state-run institutions, behind Texas and California.

"Advocates for disabled sue Jersey" (Star-Ledger)
"State of the States in Developmental Disabilities Study" (Coleman Institute)


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