Downey & Houghtaling Bill to Improve Emergency Response for Persons with Developmental Disabilities Advances

TRENTON – Assembly Bill A4916, which requires the New Jersey Department of Human Services to study emergency response services for individuals with developmental disabilities, was released from the Assembly Human Service Committee last week following a hearing regarding the services available to persons with co-morbid developmental disabilities, severe behavioral disorders, and mental health issues. The bill is sponsored by Assemblywoman Joann Downey, Assemblyman Eric Houghtaling, and Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri-Huttle.

“When individuals with developmental disabilities require emergency aid, our first responders sometimes lack the resources and training needed to resolve the situation successfully,” said Assemblywoman Downey, who serves as Chair of the Human Services Committee.

“In order to give emergency responders the tools that they need to aid these individuals, we must develop new and uniform procedures that draw on the expertise of mental health agencies and facilities, as well as any available data that is relevant to these emergencies.”

Under the bill, the Department of Human Services must review all relevant calls, including those to 911 and county mental health agencies, that originate from facilities that treat individuals with developmental disabilities as well as individual residences. The review will also examine response times; where each person was relocated; and whether they returned to the original facility. The bill calls for the Commissioner of Human Services to report the study’s findings to the Governor and Legislature within one year.

“We have to make sure that contracted community service providers are capable of providing appropriate services to this vulnerable community,” said Assemblyman Houghtaling. “If State resources for individuals with developmental disabilities are not being properly utilized, this study will allow us to make decisive and efficient reforms to improve our current emergency response system.”

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