The Lampitt-Diegnan bill, designed to provide families with greater input in the treatment of their loved ones with disabilities, was approved by the full Assembly on December 3, 2012. Family members have been fighting for several years for the opportunity to be more involved in their disabled relative’s program. The bill, which would provide an avenue for greater family involvement, has been eagerly sought by family members who feel “helpless” regarding their son, daughter or relative’s safety and progress in developing independent living skills.
Over the past two years, countless parents and family members of New Jerseyans with Developmental Disabilities who are in residential care have complained about their inability to take a more active role in protecting the civil and human rights of their vulnerable loved one. Quite often, the family is barred from investigations that are the result of reports of abuse, neglect and exploitation. In addition, family members contend that they have been allowed to provide limited input in the planning of programs for their disabled relative.
Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt (D-Camden/Burlington) has indicated that the bill will “allow families and guardians to take a more thorough approach when deciding what's right for their loved ones by having the opportunity to go back and review conversations and consult with a third party expert or other family members."
Lampitt also points out that "Treatment programs and plans can be complicated and a lot for the average person to absorb all at once," said Lampitt (D-Camden/Burlington).
The bill, A-2431, was unanimously approved by a vote of 76-0 and now awaits a Senate vote before going to the Governor’s desk for signature. Assemblyman Patrick Diegnan (Democrat, 18th Legislative District) also serves as a primary sponsor for the proposed legislation.”
According to the language of the bill:
“An interdisciplinary team is responsible for the development of a single, integrated individual habilitation plan for a person with a developmental disability. The team typically consists of: the person receiving services; the person’s legal guardian; the parents or family member of the person (at the preference of the person served or guardian); those individuals who work most directly with the person served; and professionals and representatives of service areas who are relevant to the identification of the person’s needs and the design and evaluation of programs to meet them.”
The bill would allow family members to use an audio recording device at planning meetings that will determine the disabled individual’s program. Obviously, the approval by the Assembly is welcome news for families who have been struggling for greater opportunities to be involved in the planning of programs for family members with disabilities.
Dr. Salvatore Pizzuro, a disability policy specialist, holds a doctorate in Developmental Disabilities from Columbia University and an advanced degree in Disability Law from New York Law.