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New Jersey disability centers spark class action lawsuit

In previous posts to New Jersey readers, we’ve discussed some of the issues pertaining to young applicants seeking disability benefits. A genetic or developmental disability often manifests at an early age, before individuals can acquire a work history that might qualify them for Social Security disability insurance. Although Supplemental Security Income removes that requirement, another requirement concerning family income ceilings is in its place.

Fortunately, local and state forms of assistance might be available to New Jersey families with a disabled child or adolescent. Facilities called developmental centers might also be an option, offering a community based setting for chronically disabled individuals that have entered adulthood. Such centers, overseen by New Jersey’s Department of Human Services, typically have professional who make calls, rather than reside onsite. That approach is more cost effective and perhaps familial than traditional institution settings, where medical staff, physical therapists and nutritional planners are employed onsite.

Many families of individuals with physical or mental disabilities prefer the community centers over traditional institution settings. Yet not everyone is in favor of the modern approach. Two traditional institutions for the disabled, located in Woodbridge and Totowa, recently became the subject of a class action lawsuit.

The centers house about 700 developmentally disabled individuals. Gov. Chris Christie, with the support of several disability rights advocacy groups, decided the institutions no longer provided the most humane or cost-effective care. Christie ordered the centers to be closed, with the savings -- tens of millions each year -- to be used for the creation of more community centers in the state. The plaintiffs in the class action are seeking an injunction, preventing the closures.

Source:, “Families of disabled sue N.J. to block developmental center closings,” Susan K. Livio, June 5, 2013

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