The burning issue regarding the potential closing of developmental centers for people with developmental disabilities has quieted down but not gone away. The controversy of whether the larger institutions should be closed, and the clients returned to their parents or other family members or placed in group homes has yet to be resolved. Governor Christie has proposed closing some of these facilities, with the Vineland Developmental Center receiving the most publicity.
The Governor proposes closing facilities such as Vineland, which he compares to a “pot of money.” He proposes using the “pot of money” for creating community grants, with some of the grants going to the families of the developmentally disabled clients to be used for care in the home. Other dollars would potentially be used by the group homes.
Interestingly, New Jersey is faced with an overwhelming waiting list of clients with developmental disabilities who need housing. Most of the parents have died or are elderly and can no longer care for their adult children with special needs. Yet, the Governor suggests keeping the clients at home where family care no longer exists. It is unfortunate that the current administration views the developmental centers as no more than a “pot of money”.
The waiting list for housing among these disabled individuals continues to grow every day as new applications for housing are submitted. In addition, the Administration has erroneously suggested that the famous “Olmstead” decision mandates closing the facilities.
Among the most pressing issues to be addressed for a special needs student who is approaching young adulthood is the problem of an appropriate living arrangement. Although mandates specify timelines and types of services, in many cases, neither the Congress nor the federal courts truly consider costs to state or local governments when passing or interpreting mandates. Nevertheless, the courts should consider a continuum of settings (moving from the most restrictive to the least restrictive) when determining the most appropriate placement for an individual with a mental disability. Within the schools, as mandated by State and federal law, children must be educated within the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE). The courts have determined that adults with disabilities who require treatment, must receive services in the Least Restrictive Alternative (LRA) to a residential placement. The settings might best be interpreted when listed along a continuum:
- Institutional Setting (Hospital, Prison, etc.)
- Fully Supervised Community Setting
- Group Home
- Supervised Semi-Independent Living
- Supervised Apartment
- Monitored Semi-Independent Setting
- Monitored Apartment (Supervision periodic, but not daily)
- Independent Living
- Periodic Monitoring (Weekly, Monthly)
The most restrictive setting would be reserved for the clients with the most severe disabilities. The settings would become less restrictive for individuals whose disabilities are less severe.