Anxious parents packed the Assembly hearing room in Trenton — moms and dads of developmentally disabled family members who say their children have medical conditions so severe, mental impairment so profound, behavior problems so violent the state referred them to developmental centers outside of New Jersey.
“Sam is episodically violent. When Sam becomes violent he will hurt himself. He can also put other people at risk. He hits, he slaps, he kicks,” said Serge Goldstein.
“She has tonic-clonic seizures every day. She had a corpus callosotomy, where they severed her brain. There is no way somebody in a group home would be able to handle that — no way,” said Phyllis Sexton.
That’s why they’re horrified by “Return Home NJ” — the state’s Division of Developmental Disabilities’ plan to move their children back to New Jersey into group homes like this one in Robbinsville where they say the level of care can’t compare to facilities like Woods Center in Langhorne, Pa.
“I can’t take the chance with her life. We’ll never want to take the chance with her life! And that’s what I think DDD is doing. With her life, yeah!” said Rob McCabe.
“If she has a full-blown tonic-clonic seizure without support, she’s going down to the ground. She could be hurt, she could be killed,” said Sue Anderson.
“I think Woods is a tremendous facility. They’ve done right by her and we feel safe with her there,” said Paul Anderson.
Scores of disabled New Jersey residents live at Woods’ 300-acre campus, which keeps doctors on staff and offers 24-hour nursing, intense, one-on-one care and on-site schools. Some residents moved here from New Jersey decades ago — 20, 30, 40 years.
“Any move, any transition out of her home — which is her home, after 26 years — would be life-threatening,” said Peggy Salvaggio.
Families showed us letters from DDD giving them six months to find a suitable place for their disabled children back in Jersey. Some looked close to panic Kevin Halbruner’s mom.
“This is cruel. It’s premeditated child cruelty abuse,” said June Halbruner.
“At Woods we feel she’s safe, in a safe environment,” said Sexton.
Back at the Human Services Committee, Assemblywoman Gabriela Mosquera questioned the Division’s deputy commissioner.
“I’m feeling uneasy about this entire thing. If New Jersey had the proper care, these individuals would never have left the state to begin with,” said Mosquera.
“We wanna make sure it’s right before we work someone back and we will not move anyone until we are sure that care is in place. For some people we have something, but for others, it will take more time,” said Dawn Apgar.
Families want to believe that’s true. But some say they’ll take the state to court, rather than move their child.