Have you been following the news out of New Jersey? I have, partly because I was born there (Camden, to be exact but we didn’t stay long), but mostly because of the possible implications of what’s happening. We all know that law suits and state legislation can end up setting a precedent that everyone has to deal with.
So here’s the story as I see it. An audit was done by the New Jersey Office of Legislative Service, Office of the Auditor, on the Department of Human Services, Division of Developmental Disabilities, Community Programs for the period of July 1, 2009 – July 31, 2013. (Follow all that? Lots of government at work there = they were looking at how money was being spent to provide services for people with developmental disabilities.) On page 11 of this report we find a recommendation:
What happens next is a classic example of what you get when policy is created by government without any input from the community it serves. Horror stories starting hitting the newspapers and internet. “Return Home New Jersey” was something that parents across the state were afraid of.
“I can’t imagine there is a parent on this planet who wouldn’t feel, please don’t do this to my loved one,” Alison Novack said.
On June 23, Assembly Human Services Committee Chairwoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle, D-Bergen, introduced a bill that would stop further transfers until the policy could be “studied.” More articles appeared in support of the bill and by the 26th it had passed the Legislature: “The bill was approved 37 to 1 in the Senate. The Assembly vote was 75 in favor with 3 abstentions.”
My favorite quote so far in this story comes from Alfred Doblin in the NorthJersey.com Opinion section:
[Deputy Commissioner of Health and Human Services Dawn] Apgar said, “We spend an extraordinary amount of time finding the right agency, the right location, the right setting to ensure that the transition works for the consumer.”
The families of adults with developmental disabilities are not looking for the best deal on an HD television nor are they shopping for cheap suits. They are not consumers and their loved ones are not products.
At this moment, hundreds of parents are no doubt on the edges of their seats, desperately waiting to find out if Governor Chris Christie will sign the bill or not; whether they can breath easy after what I can only imagine have been more than a few sleepless nights worrying about what to do for their loved one.
My 2 cents:
On the surface, this story is about adults who have developmental disabilities and their families. It’s about government’s need to be efficient. It’s even about the democratic process and the public’s ability to change policy.
But, if you didn’t click on the links and read the full stories that were behind my synopsis you may have missed something. Did you catch this line?
“If parents can’t afford to take care of a severely handicapped child, they should abort it.”
It’s a common thought among the general public. Our loved ones are viewed as drains on society, unable to contribute, and in terms of how many tax dollars are spent to support them. [It was expressed in this article if you missed it.] So this is where the issue of prenatal testing comes in to the discussion. It’s not my favorite subject (as you can imagine) but it is important. This story about how people treat our adult children comes back to the view that maybe they shouldn’t even exists.
We’ll be talking to Mark Leach tomorrow on BlogTalk Radio about his work in this arena. It’s difficult to wrap my head around the idea that people are viewed as objects, deemed “worthy” of life only if it looks good on a government spread sheet.
But it’s happening. Here – today, (or in New Jersey).
There’s still so much work to be done…….
What are your thoughts? Are restrictions on living options going to the next big thing after the government does away with “sheltered” work environments?