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.