CRANFORD – Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean Jr. recently broke from negotiations over the state’s budget to visit the Adult Services Program of the Cerebral Palsy League (CPL) in Cranford. There is concern at the CPL and other social services organizations that the state’s budget for the coming year is likely to include cuts in funding that will impact the program and others like it.
The CPL Adult Services Program provides adults with a wide range of developmental disabilities with vocational training, independent livings skills training and day care services. The program also provides family members and other loved ones with respite from their responsibilities as primary caregivers. The program supports dozens of adults per year, along with their families.
Kean toured the facility and visited with members as they worked in the vocational center. The Adult Services program provides participants with vocational training in a variety of skills, such as bulk mailing, print and copy center work, light production and food services. The program is facing reduced state funding, including money from the Department of Human Services and the Department of Health and Senior Services.
“This is a program that keeps people out of nursing homes,” said Debra Wolfel, CPL executive director. “It keeps them from being isolated at home, where their condition may deteriorate to the point they need residential care, which costs more money, and they lose their ability to live and remain active within the community, which carries the price of lost personal dignity.
“The program also provides caregivers with a break and allows them to go to work. A program like this is supporting the family system and the community.”
Kean noted that New Jersey maintains more developmental centers than other states and that other states are moving in the direction of enabling people with developmental disabilities to live and remain within the community, which is less costly than institutional care.
Nearly 3,000 New Jersey residents live in developmental centers at an annual cost of about $225,000 each, or two to three times the average cost of community living, according to the New Jersey Association of Community Providers (NJACP). New Jersey’s seven developmental centers consume about 30 percent of the $1.4 billion budget of the Division of Developmental Disabilities while serving less than 8 percent of the population served by the department, NJACP reports.
“People with developmental disabilities need community support to remain and thrive in the community,” Wolfel said. “Through programs like this they feel better about themselves. They have someplace to come. They value the paycheck. In the long run it’s going to cost a lot more money to care for these individuals elsewhere. This is the kind of underfunded program that really needs community support.”
New Jersey’s fiscal constraints are causing government leaders to consider trade offs never before discussed, Kean said.
“(CPL is) an extraordinary institution,” he said. “They have a very positive impact on all our communities. Personally seeing programs like this is helpful. Making sure we’re making the right decisions based on the right information is important.”
Sen. Thomas Kean Jr. visits with members of the Cerebral Palsy League on his recent tour of the league’s facilities and Adult Services Program.
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