Closure plan for institution under fire

New Jersey state capitol building in Trenton

The graphic is an outline of New Jersey with a large part of the state flag inserted inside.
New Jersey

A plan by Gov. Chris Christie to close a New Jersey institution that houses 350 women with disabilities is meeting stiff resistance.

Under the plan, residents of the Vineland Developmental Center would be transferred to community based housing facilities, a move supported by the Arc of New Jersey and other advocacy groups long in favor of ensuring that people with disabilities live in the most integrated setting possible, as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act.

However, the closure would result in the loss of 1,450 full-time and part-time positions at the facility. On April 26, hundreds of state workers rallied against the closure proposal, arguing that it would push the county’s unemployment rate, already the state’s highest, above 15 percent and place the patients in the facility at risk.

The rally, highlighted by Rev. Al Sharpton, was organized by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and supported by the Voice of the Retarded, an advocacy group that often opposes deinstitutionalization efforts.

Though the state of New Jersey has cut the number of people in its state institutions from about 3,900 to 3,700 since 1998, it has not cut any of its seven state institutions.

Christie has previously called for closing five of the state’s seven institutions.

One response to “Closure plan for institution under fire

  1. DisAbility Rights Washington supports the responsible closure of institutions for people with developmental disabilities. However, we believe the process of moving people from institutions into inclusive communities must include protections and guarantees of quality supports and services.

    When there are proposals to close institutions, they must be scrutinized to determine what the motivation behind the proposal is. If cutting cost is the primary motivation, then it is absolutely critical for advocacy efforts to zero in on getting lawmakers to include appropriate protections and guarantees in their plans.

    The choice should not and cannot be between keeping institutions open and dumping people into communities with insufficient supports and services. Because, when appropriate supports and services are in place, research shows conclusively people with developmental disabilities thrive in inclusive communties.

    We are not close enough to the situation to know the adequacy of New Jersey’s plan to close their institutions. But we are disappointed to see an internationally renown and well respected civil rights activist such as the Rev. Al Sharpton put all of his focus on keeping New Jersey’s institutions open instead of making sure they are closed responsibly. Inclusive living is the civil rights issue for the disability rights movement and it would be nice to have Rev. Sharpton’s support for this cause.

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