In a speech about his state's budget yesterday, Governor Chris Christie (R-NJ), announced a settlement agreement in litigation brought by Disability Rights New Jersey which involved moving people who did not want to live in state developmental centers and providing services to individuals in the community who were on waiting lists. Governor Christie said of the settlement agreement, "Today, I am proud to announce that we have settled an eight-year-old Olmstead lawsuit with Disability Rights New Jersey. The suit claimed that New Jersey was not complying with U.S. Supreme Court mandates to allow people with developmental disabilities to live in the least restrictive and most appropriate setting. In response, we have increased funding for community-based services; we have reduced the waiting list for in-home supports and services, and we have expanded group homes and supported living options. We all know New Jersey’s sad history of over institutionalization. We have institutionalized more citizens than any state other than Texas. It is shameful. It is ineffective. And, in this Administration, it is ending. We are allowing people with disabilities to live where they and their families want them to live: at home, in the community, among family and friends. So this suit is settled."
The settlement agreement resolves two lawsuits filed against the New Jersey Department of Human Services. The agreement says that all individuals who are determined to be eligible for community placement (approximately 600), will be discharged to the community by mid-2017. Any new admissions must be deemed necessary for the individual's health, safety and welfare, and can only take place after all reasonable and appropriate alternatives have been exhausted. The agreement also includes funding to assist the Dividion of Developmental Disabilities to identify and implement best practices and to identify barriers to the successful completion of the settlement agreement. Additionally, funding to provide representation to individuals seeking discharge from or preventing admission to a developmental center is included.