With Gov. Christie days away from introducing New Jersey’s 2012 budget, state leaders continue to overlook an opportunity to achieve significant savings simply by complying with federal law. Under the Olmstead Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act requires states to enable people with mental disabilities to live in community settings rather than institutions. Nearly 3,000 New Jersey residents live in developmental centers – more than every state except Texas – and in 2005 New Jersey introduced its Path to Progress for complying with Olmstead by 2015. To date the state has failed to make meaningful progress and now faces lawsuits filed on behalf of these residents.
Institutional living costs $285,795 per individual per year, or 250 percent more than the cost of community living. The cost for providing those same services in the community is $113,880. In 2009, New Jersey’s seven developmental centers consumed 31 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 – government inefficiency at its worst.
We began CAU in 1979 by successfully removing 20 people with developmental disabilities from institutional living and integrating them into the community. Today we assist more than 3,500 individuals with all kinds of disabilities each year. Community living offers people with disabilities the opportunity to live in their own homes, receiving the support they need, contributing to society – in many ways financial – and building self-esteem. Yet if that moral compulsion and compliance with federal law is not enough incentive, then Gov. Christie should just do the math.
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