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DeAngelo, Eustace, Mukherji & Holley Bill to Create Registry of Organizations Providing Services to Veterans Signed into Law

(TRENTON) – Legislation Assemblymen Wayne DeAngelo, Tim Eustace, Raj Mukherji and Jamel Holley sponsored to create a “one-stop shop” for military veterans seeking assistance in New Jersey was signed into law on Monday.
The law (A-3748) requires the New Jersey Department of Military and Veterans’ Affairs to create a comprehensive online registry of organizations providing services to veterans. Inclusion on the webpage will not constitute an endorsement of an organization by the department or state.
“Men and women in uniform make sacrifices to help people here at home and all around the world, but when they need a little help themselves, they sometimes find the system difficult to navigate,” said DeAngelo (D-Mercer/Middlesex), vice-chair of the Assembly Military and Veterans’ Affairs Committee. “Creating a registry is a simple task that can go a long way toward making life easier for some of our nation’s finest citizens.”
“New Jersey must embrace its obligation to honor veterans and do everything possible to serve them, just as they’ve served this nation,” said Eustace (D-Bergen/Passaic). “By providing these upstanding men and women with a directory where they easily can connect to organizations that are familiar with the needs of veterans, the state can eliminate confusion and significantly reduce the amount of time veterans have to spend researching what’s available to them.”
“A single website listing resources for veterans is a common-sense solution that will help those who served navigate the maze of organizations providing services,” said Mukherji (D-Hudson), a former sergeant in the U.S. Marine Corps. “We owe it to our vets to help them avoid unnecessary frustration and simplify their access to organizations that understand their needs.”
“Veterans should never have to go searching from place to place to find answers,” said Holley (D-Union). “Putting all the organizations that can help them under one roof is a smart, easy way to support those who answered their nation’s call to serve.”

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Muoio, Sumter, Holley, Oliver, McKnight & Tucker Bill to Provide Assistance Benefits to Those Who Undergo Drug Treatment Signed into Law

Law will Provide Financial Assistance, Job Training & Education through Work First NJ

Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Liz Muoio, Shavonda Sumter, Jamel Holley, Sheila Oliver, Angela McKnight and Cleopatra Tucker easing eligibility restrictions for receiving general assistance benefits under the Work First New Jersey program while ensuring that recipients receive needed drug treatment has been signed into law.

The new law (S-601/A-889) is part of ongoing efforts by Assembly Democrats to lift people out of poverty and rebuild New Jersey’s middle-class.

“It can be tremendously hard to turn one’s life around after a drug conviction because of all the doors that close in their face due to legal constraints, especially for those who don’t have family or friends to rely on for assistance,” said Muoio (D-Mercer/Hunterdon). “This change is designed to help end the cycle of addiction and recidivism by giving people the means to turn their life around. Financial assistance, job training, and education – all of these things provide hope and a chance at a new start.”

WorkFirst NJ, the state’s welfare reform program, emphasizes work as the first step toward building a new life and a brighter future. Through cash assistance, job training, education, work activities and many other support services, the program aims to help people get off welfare, secure employment and become self-sufficient.

Previously, anyone convicted of offenses involving the use or possession of a controlled dangerous substance was required to enroll in or complete a licensed residential (inpatient) drug treatment program in order to be eligible to receive general assistance benefits. The new law will permit enrollment in, or completion of, a licensed outpatient drug treatment program to alternatively satisfy this requirement.

“A second chance is what this legislation will provide for residents who need one,” said Sumter (D-Bergen, Passaic). “We encourage people to get and keep their lives on track but stifle their progress by limiting how much assistance they can receive. It’s counterproductive for individuals working hard to reclaim their futures.”

“This law is about opportunity and creating more of it for residents who have made an effort to put the mistakes of the past behind them,” said Holley (D-Union). “It will help residents take a necessary step toward achieving their goals.”

“Everyone deserves an opportunity to turn their lives around,” said Oliver (D-Essex, Passaic). “By removing the ban on general assistance eligibility, we empower residents to build a new future for themselves and their families.”

“Previous state law excluded residents with a history of certain offenses from access to the programs that are meant to help them get back on their feet,” said McKnight (D-Hudson). “Lifting the ban is the right step to take for the people of New Jersey who truly need a second chance in life.”

“We want to do more to ensure residents every opportunity to take care of their families and become independent members of society,” said Tucker (D-Essex). “Removing the ban and updating current law to help residents get the assistance needed to keep their lives on track.”

The bill was originally sent to the Governor in April, but it was conditionally vetoed to remove the requirement that would have allowed those convicted of drug distribution to be eligible for general assistance benefits. Both houses concurred with those changes and sent it back to the Governor last week.

Additionally, under the law, an individual who has a past drug conviction may receive general assistance benefits without enrolling in or completing a drug treatment program if either: (1) an appropriate treatment program is not available; or (2) the person is excused from enrolling in a treatment program for good cause pursuant to regulation.

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Holley Bill to Help Small Businesses Expand Their Operations Heads to Governor’s Desk

Legislation sponsored by Assemblyman Jamel Holley to equip small businesses with the tools they need to grow and flourish gained final legislative approval from the General Assembly on Monday.

The bill (S-123/A-3559), which now heads to the Governor’s desk, would establish a “Small Business Bonding Readiness Assistance Program” through the state Economic Development Authority, which would provide support to small businesses and help them meet surety bonding requirements so they may bid on public works projects or perform contracts offered by the state or federal government.

“Because of all the requirements in place to qualify for government contracts it can often be cumbersome and confusing and discourage small business owners from trying to branch out and expand their operations in this way,” said Holley (D-Union). “This legislation will provide them with the tools and the know-how to pursue new avenues of revenue. This is another example of government working well for the people.”

The program is designed to increase the capacity of small businesses by improving their financial presentation, operational efficiency profitability, bonding capacity and knowledge through consulting sessions and workshops. The authority would be required to establish a special non-lapsing revolving fund to provide grant funding to small businesses that participate in the program.

“On the backend, this is also a win-win for taxpayers because increased competition inherently helps lower costs so more people vying for government contracts will ultimately help reduce the costs taxpayers must bear. So, we’re creating a more business-friendly environment in New Jersey while eyeing long-term savings for taxpayers,” concluded Holley.

The bill is also sponsored in the Assembly by Assembly Democrats Sheila Oliver, Benjie Wimberly, Elizabeth Maher Muoio, Eliana Pintor Marin and Raj Mukherji. It was unanimously approved by both houses of the Legislature and now awaits action from the Governor.

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Vainieri Huttle, Singleton, Holley, Mosquera, Benson, Tucker & Wimberly Bill to Help Guard Child Protection Caseworkers Gains Assembly Approval

(TRENTON) – By a vote of 59-3-7, the full Assembly on Thursday approved legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Troy Singleton, Jamel Holley, Gabriela Mosquera, Daniel R. Benson, Cleopatra Tucker and Benjie Wimberly to help safeguard child protection workers from the kind of attacks over the past year that left one seriously injured and sent two others to the hospital.

The sponsors said that more recently, a child welfare case worker was attacked inside her Newark office and suffered multiple injuries.

The bill (A-2322), known as “Leah’s Law,” is named in honor of the Division of Child Protection and Permanency caseworker who was nearly stabbed to death while performing her duties for the division in Camden in November 2014.

“It’s clear that the need still exists for us to do a better job protecting these caseworkers. They are going out into the field unprotected to handle emotional and often tenuous situations,” said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). “The possibility for confrontation always looms, which makes it all the more confusing as to why the administration diverted Human Services police officers in the first place and even more perplexing that the governor vetoed this legislation last time around. After hearing Leah’s testimony at our hearing it’s unfathomable that we would continue to send these workers out unprotected.”

“This is an issue of critical concern because it affects both the caseworkers and the children they’re sent to protect. When we neglect their security, we’re paying the price twofold,” said Singleton (D-Burlington). “Despite my questioning earlier this year, I still don’t understand the decision that led to the security lapse or why we chose to privatize our security needs, instead of utilizing the human services police we have who are trained to handle these types of situations.”

“These employees will continue to be at risk if we allow these types of security lapses to remain in place,” said Holley (D-Union). “We need to recruit and retain qualified, committed caseworkers. How can we do that if they don’t feel safe? This bill will help remedy that.”

“The severity of the attacks we’ve witnessed over the last year warrant an overhaul of our policies and tactical procedures,” said Mosquera (D-Camden/Gloucester).

“This legislation will help ensure the safety of these workers while they’re out there trying to protect the welfare of some of our most vulnerable children,” said Benson (D-Mercer/Middlesex).

“We need to do more to protect the safety these employees who are risking their lives to help remove children from grave situations,” said Tucker (D-Essex).

“This bill will help close the gaps that exist today and better position child protection workers to do the important job they are tasked with,” said Wimberly (D-Passaic/Bergen).

The bill would require the Division of Child Protection and Permanency to implement policies and procedures to ensure the safety of every caseworker employed by the division and require Human Services police officers to accompany them into the field when needed.

The policies and procedures would address issues of safety when a caseworker receives a threat of violence from a client, or is presented with a potentially dangerous situation while working in a local office, investigating a report of child abuse or neglect in the field, or making an emergency removal of a child pursuant to current law.

Under the provisions of the bill, in order to ensure the safety of a caseworker in a local office, the division shall require that:

  • A Human Services police officer be assigned to every building where a local office is located to provide security and assistance to the caseworkers assigned to the office;
  • Each local office be equipped with a metal detector or metal detector wands operated by law enforcement officers;
  • A panic button be installed in every meeting room in which a caseworker meets with a client; and
  • At least one meeting or conference room in each local office be equipped with a two-way mirror to allow for the observation of the room by the Human Services police officer.

In order to ensure the safety of a caseworker when investigating a report of child abuse or neglect in the field or when making an emergency removal of a child, the division would require:

  • A caseworker assigned to a home visit to be accompanied by another caseworker if certain conditions delineated in the bill are met;
  • At the request of a caseworker or the caseworker’s supervisor, the Human Services police officer assigned to the caseworker’s local office would accompany and assist the caseworker when making an emergency removal; and
  • The Human Services police officer assigned to a local office would be available to a caseworker within 30 minutes of a request to accompany and assist the caseworker, except that in an emergency situation, the officer would be immediately available.

The provisions of the bill stipulate that when a caseworker, investigating a report of child abuse or neglect in the field or making an emergency removal of a child, is assigned to a home visit and is accompanied by another caseworker, nothing would prohibit the division, at the request of the caseworker or the caseworker’s supervisor, from requiring that a Human Services police officer assigned to the caseworker’s local office accompany or assist the caseworker while on the home visit, if appropriate.
The bill also requires the Division of Child Protection and Permanency to implement a caseworker safety intervention plan. The plan shall, at a minimum:

  • Establish specific procedures to follow when a caseworker is facing or responding to a situation that poses a threat to the safety and well-being of the caseworker, whether in the local office, in the field, or when making an emergency removal of a child;
  • Specify when to request the assistance of the Human Services police officer assigned to the caseworker’s local office and how to initiate such requests; and
  • Be posted in a conspicuous place in the local office and a copy of the plan shall be provided to every staff member assigned to that office.

The bill now awaits further consideration by the Senate.

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Vainieri Huttle, Holley & Downey Bill to Strengthen Protections for Victims of Sexual Assault Heads to Governor’s Desk

Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Jamel Holley and Joann Downey to strengthen protections for survivors of sexual assault received final legislative approval unanimously from the General Assembly on Monday.

The bill (A-4207) modifies the scope of the “Sexual Assault Survivor Protection Act of 2015,” as well as the enforcement of protective orders under the provisions of that act that help protect victims from offenders who committed actual or attempted nonconsensual sexual contact, sexual penetration, or lewdness.

Vainieri Huttle was the lead sponsor of the original law, which expanded the availability of restraining orders to a greater number of sexual assault survivors. Prior to that law, in order to pursue a protective order, a victim must have had a previous or existing domestic relationship with the offender, such as a spousal or dating relationship, or had to file a criminal complaint against the offender.

“This bill will augment the landmark Sexual Assault Survivors Act to make it work even better for victims, bringing them greater protection and peace of mind,” said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). “These changes will help tighten the law and eliminate any vagueness that might stand in the way of helping a victim secure protection.”

Specifically, the provisions of the bill:
– Require the Division of Child Protection and Permanency in the Department of Children and Families to investigate and possibly pursue legal action when allegations of misconduct against an unemancipated minor by a parent, guardian, or other person having care, custody and control of that minor child, are reported by another parent or guardian. The division could also petition the Superior Court for a protective order and other relief on behalf of the reporting parent or guardian and the unemancipated minor;
– Recognize and provide for the enforcement of protective orders entered under the provisions of a substantially similar sexual assault protection statute under federal law or the laws of another state; and
– Distinguish between indictable and non-indictable violations of protective orders and any such violation, whether representing an indictable or non-indictable offense, would be adjudicated in Superior Court.

“When it comes to sexual assault and its aftermath, we need to throw the full weight of the law and our legal protections behind victims,” Holley (D-Union). “No one should have to feel alone in this battle.”

“The trauma of sexual assault can have lasting emotional repercussions so we need to help assure victims that they will at least be safe from physical repercussions,” said Downey (D-Monmouth). “This bill will help strengthen the new law to make sure it does just that.”

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Muoio, Sumter, Holley, Oliver, McKnight & Tucker Bill to Provide Assistance Benefits to Those Who Undergo Drug Treatment Heads Back to Governor

Bill Would Provide Financial Assistance, Job Training & Education through Work First NJ

The full Assembly on Monday granted final legislative approval to a bill sponsored by Assembly Democrats Liz Muoio, Shavonda Sumter, Jamel Holley, Sheila Oliver, Angela McKnight and Cleopatra Tucker that would ease eligibility restrictions for receiving general assistance benefits under the Work First New Jersey program while ensuring that recipients receive needed drug treatment continued advancing.

The bill (S-601/A-889), approved by a vote of 63-8-1, is part of continued efforts by Assembly Democrats to lift people out of poverty and rebuild New Jersey’s middle-class.

“It can be tremendously hard to turn one’s life around after a drug conviction because of all the doors that close in their face due to legal constraints, especially for those who don’t have family or friends to rely on for assistance,” said Muoio (D-Mercer/Hunterdon). “This change is designed to help end the cycle of addiction and recidivism by giving people the means to turn their life around. Financial assistance, job training, and education – all of these things provide hope and a chance at a new start.”

WorkFirst NJ, the state’s welfare reform program, emphasizes work as the first step toward building a new life and a brighter future. Through cash assistance, job training, education, work activities and many other support services, the program aims to help people get off welfare, secure employment and become self-sufficient.

Currently, anyone convicted of offenses involving the use or possession of a controlled dangerous substance must enroll in or complete a licensed residential (inpatient) drug treatment program in order to be eligible to receive general assistance benefits. This bill would permit enrollment in, or completion of, a licensed outpatient drug treatment program to alternatively satisfy this requirement.

“A second chance is what this legislation will provide for residents who need one,” said Sumter (D-Bergen, Passaic). “We encourage people to get and keep their lives on track but stifle their progress by limiting how much assistance they can receive. It’s counterproductive for individuals working hard to reclaim their futures.”

“This legislation is about opportunity and creating more of it for residents who have made an effort to put the mistakes of the past behind them,” said Holley (D-Union). “It will help residents take a necessary step toward achieving their goals.”

“Everyone deserves an opportunity to turn their lives around,” said Oliver (D-Essex, Passaic). “By removing the ban on general assistance eligibility, we empower residents to build a new future for themselves and their families.”

“Current state law excludes residents with a history of certain offenses from access to the programs that are meant to help them get back on their feet,” said McKnight (D-Hudson). “Lifting the ban is the right step to take for the people of New Jersey who truly need a second chance in life.”

“We want to do more to ensure residents every opportunity to take care of their families and become independent members of society,” said Tucker (D-Essex). “Removing the ban and updating current law to help residents get the assistance needed to keep their lives on track.”

The bill was originally sent to the Governor in April, but it was conditionally vetoed to remove the requirement that would have allowed those convicted of drug distribution to be eligible for general assistance benefits. The Senate concurred with those changes last month and the Assembly granted final approval today.

Also under the bill, an individual who has a past drug conviction may receive general assistance benefits without enrolling in or completing a drug treatment program if either: (1) an appropriate treatment program is not available; or (2) the person is excused from enrolling in a treatment program for good cause pursuant to regulation.

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Mukherji, Holley & Gusciora Bill to Exempt Homeless from Fee for a Non-Driver Identification Card Goes to Governor

(TRENTON) – Legislation Assembly Democrats Raj Mukherji, Jamel Holley and Reed Gusciora sponsored that would allow homeless people to obtain, duplicate or renew a non-driver identification card without paying fees to the Motor Vehicle Commission was approved 72-0 Monday by the Assembly, giving it final legislative approval.
The bill now goes to the governor for consideration.
“The administration fee is the only thing prevented many homeless people from acquiring identification, when shelters and social services organizations are willing to help these citizens,” said Mukherji (D-Hudson). “Identification will be useful in many ways by allowing them access to services that will help them in the long run. It is a simple, common sense change in the law that can make a huge impact in the lives of our homeless citizens.”
“As we continue looking to combat the scourges of poverty in New Jersey, this is a simple step that can go a long way toward giving homeless people a step up,” said Holley (D-Union). “As we all know, it’s difficult to get a job and other services without identification. We should make it as easy as possible for our most vulnerable residents to acquire it so they can more easily rebuild their lives.”
“We should remove any obstacles that prevent those living in poverty from improving their lives,” said Gusciora (D-Mercer/Hunterdon). “If waiving this fee makes it easier for a homeless person to get the identification they need to get a new start, then we should do it. It’s a simple but effective idea.”
Under the legislation (A-2107), the MVC chief administrator may waive the fees for a homeless person who submits proof of temporary residence through either a social worker or the coordinator of an emergency shelter for the homeless where the person is temporarily residing.
Currently, residents who are 14 years of age and older may apply to the MVC for a non-driver identification card, for a fee of $24. The card is issued solely for the purpose of providing identification and is not a license to drive.
The legislation requires the MVC chief to promulgate rules and regulations as may be necessary to effectuate the bill. The bill would take effect on the first day of the seventh month next following the date of enactment.

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McKnight, Chiaravalloti, Pintor Marin, Holley, Wimberly & Quijano Bill to Teach K-8 Students Financial Literacy Clears Assembly

(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Angela McKnight, Nicholas Chiaravalloti, Eliana Pintor Marin, Jamel Holley, Benjie Wimberly and Annette Quijano to require school districts in New Jersey to teach financial literacy to elementary and middle school students was approved 58-10-3 by the full Assembly on Monday.
“One of the most important lessons a person can learn is how to manage their money. Many young people go into adulthood knowing little about finances, and end up making decisions that cost them in the long run,” said McKnight (D-Hudson). “Teaching our kids early about the importance of managing their money and making sound financial decisions can prevent them from making costly mistakes and set them on the right financial path.”
“Many young people don’t understand the importance of being financially responsible until they’ve already taken a few missteps. These poor decisions can hurt their credit when they are branching out on their own and need it the most,” said Chiaravalloti (D-Hudson). “We don’t expect them to be experts, but they should have a basic understanding of how money works and how it affects their lives.
“The earlier we instill this message, the better financial decisions they will make as adults,” said Pintor Marin (D-Essex).
“The purpose of the instruction will be to provide elementary and middle school students with the basic financial literacy necessary for sound financial decision-making,” said Holley (D-Union).
“This is an added touch that will hopefully go a long way toward teaching young people how to make sound financial decisions as they get older,” said Wimberly (D-Passaic/Bergen).
“The instruction must meet the requirements established by the state board and must be appropriate to and reflect the age and comprehension of the students enrolled in the particular grade level,” said Quijano (D-Union).
The bill (A-3396) would direct the State Board of Education to require school districts to incorporate financial literacy instruction into the curriculum for students enrolled in kindergarten through eighth grade.
The instruction must include content on budgeting, savings, credit, debt, insurance, investment, and other issues associated with personal financial responsibility as determined by the state board.
The state board must provide curriculum and sample instructional materials that may be used by school districts to support the implementation of the financial literacy instruction requirement.
The bill would take effect immediately and first be applicable to the first full school year following enactment.
The bill will now be referred to the Senate.

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Johnson, Pinkin & Holley Bill to Add Campus Police to List of Officers Eligible for Employment Protections Clears Assembly

Legislation Assembly Democrats Gordon Johnson, Nancy Pinkin and Jamel Holley sponsored to provide campus police officers with increased job security gained approval from the General Assembly on Monday.

The bill (A-1411) would afford college and university campus police officers the same employment protections as other police officers in the state. Under the bill, campus police officers may not be removed from their employment or position for political reasons or for any cause other than just cause, such as incapacity, misconduct or disobedience of rules and regulations established by the college or university police agency. Should just cause be established, a written complaint setting forth charges would be required prior to consideration for termination.

“Campus police officers often have to intervene in the same dangerous situations as other law enforcement officers, but they go through a less formal process when facing possible termination,” said Johnson (D-Bergen), a former Bergen County sheriff. “This legislation simply is about making sure that all officers are held to the same standards and go through the same processes.”

The legislation provides that any complaint against an officer must be in written form and must be filed in the office of the person in charge of the agency. A complaint must be served upon the officer charged and a hearing must be held at least 10 days after the complaint is served.

Any complaint charging a violation of the internal rules and regulations established for the conduct of a police agency shall be filed no later than 45 days after establishing the grounds for the complaint. If the complaint is not filed within this 45-day window, it must be dismissed and the officer cannot be fired, suspended, fined or reduced in rank for that violation.

“Similar to municipal police officers, campus police officers receive police academy training and are authorized to carry weapons and make arrests,” said Pinkin (D-Middlesex). “If they’re doing the same work as other officers, they ought to receive the same employment protections as other officers.”

“Local police officers, State Police officers and troopers, county investigators and professional firefighters rightfully are afforded the right to certain employment protections, which reflects New Jersey’s respect and gratitude for their work,” said Holley (D-Union). “Our state’s laws also must reflect similar appreciation for its campus police.”

The measure, which gained Assembly approval 57-12-1, now awaits Senate consideration.

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Vainieri Huttle, Lampitt, McKnight, Holley, Mukherji, Zwicker & Wimberly Bill to Create Ombudsman for Individuals with Intellectual & Developmental Disabilities Continues to Advance

Legislation Assembly Democrats Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Pamela Lampitt, Angela McKnight, Jamel Holley, Raj Mukherji, Andrew Zwicker and Benjie Wimberly sponsored to create the office of an ombudsman to serve as an advocate for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities was advanced Thursday by a Senate committee.

“Navigating state and federal laws and bureaucracy can be overwhelming for anyone,” said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen), chair of the Assembly Human Services Committee. “For those with intellectual and developmental disabilities, it can be downright frustrating, which can deter some individuals and families from accessing much-needed services that may be available to help them. This is counterproductive and in no one’s best interest. By creating an ombudsman to help guide them through the state and federal labyrinth of services, we can help individuals become more self-sufficient, thriving members of the community.”

The bill (A-3824) would establish the independent Office of the Ombudsman for Individuals with Intellectual or Developmental Disabilities and Their Families in, but not of, the Department of the Treasury. The ombudsman is to be appointed by the governor.

“The loved ones of individuals who have intellectual and developmental disabilities want them to be able to take advantage of all the programs and services available, but doing the research alone is like a full-time job,” said Lampitt (D-Camden/Burlington). “Having a single office people can contact with questions and concerns will be invaluable.”

“All New Jersey residents with intellectual and developmental disabilities deserve the opportunity to live happy, healthy lives,” said McKnight (D-Hudson). “It’s so important that these individuals and those who care for them know how to access the resources that can make that possible.”
“The services New Jersey makes available to those with disabilities can only be useful if people know they exist and understand how to access them,” said Holley (D-Union). “The ombudsman will be dedicated to knowing the issues that affect individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities thoroughly and making it easier for people to access health care, pursue an education, seek employment and live independently.”

“Individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities require a strong support system in order to thrive and reach their full potential,” said Mukherji (D-Hudson). “Establishing this office will fortify that system and open doors for more New Jersey residents.”

“Parents and guardians who are raising children with disabilities face challenges that can often make them feel alone and helpless,” said Zwicker (D-Somerset/Mercer/Hunterdon/Middlesex). “Knowing the ombudsman is there to help will provide peace of mind as they navigate what may seem to be a complex and daunting system.”

“Individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities have a right to the opportunity to thrive and be happy,” said Wimberly (D-Bergen/Passaic). “This legislation will help parents, caregivers, educators and everyone involved in the lives of people with disabilities access tools to ensure that they have the best possible quality of life.”

The ombudsman would organize and direct the work of the office with duties that would include, but not be limited to, the following:

1) serving as a source of information for individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities and their families and interested members of the public, to help them better understand state and federal laws and regulations governing individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities;

2) providing, in coordination with the State Council on Developmental Disabilities: information and support to individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities and their families in navigating and understanding the process for obtaining services and support from the Division of Developmental Disabilities (DDD) and the Division of Children’s System of Care (CSOC), including information and support for those who transition from receiving services and supports; and assistance in obtaining appropriate, services, support, and opportunities from CSOC or DDD that focus on personal goals and making those goals become a reality;

3) providing information, communication strategies and available options when it comes to resolving disagreements with CSOC, DDD, the Department of Children and Families (DCF) or the Department of Human Services (DHS) regarding the evaluation, placement, or provision of services and supports; and to educate individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities and their families;

4) working neutrally and objectively to help ensure that a fair process is followed in the resolution of disputes concerning the provision of supports and services to individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities receiving services from CSOC or DDD;

5) identifying patterns of complaints regarding the rights and services of individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities and recommending strategies for improvements; and

6) assisting CSOC and DDD in creating public information programs designed to acquaint and educate individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities, their families, and the public about the duties of the ombudsman.

The bill also would require the ombudsman to issue a written report annually to the Commissioner of Human Services and the Commissioner of Children and Families, which would include a summary of the services the ombudsman provided during the year and any specific recommendations the ombudsman deems appropriate and necessary to provide services and support to individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities. The report also would be issued to the governor and the legislature.

The measure, which passed the Assembly 68-7-4, was advanced by the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee. It now awaits further Senate consideration.

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