Speaking out for People with
 Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities

New Jersey: Women's Guardians Scorch Gov. Christie

Courthouse News Service

May 1, 2012

Gov. Chris Christie, in violation of federal laws, will "depopulate" a state-owned woman's home by sending its mentally disabled residents to uncertified care centers, subjecting them to "increased danger of death, abuse and neglect," to further his "political plan," the women's guardians say in a federal class action.

Seven named residents of the Vineland Developmental Center sued Gov. Christie, the Vineland Center, the New Jersey Department of Human Services, and top-ranking officers in the New Jersey DHS.

Vineland Developmental Center is an Intermediate Care Facility for the Mentally Retarded (ICF/MR) which currently serves 347 residents, 86 percent of whom have been diagnosed with "profound or severe intellectual disabilities" and 68 percent of whom have lived there for more than 30 years, according to the complaint.

In May 2011, "defendants announced their plan to 'depopulate' and close the Vineland Developmental Center and discharge residents to non-ICF/MR certified, alternative settings," the complaint states.

"Among the reasons identified by defendants for their 'depopulation' plan was the ostensibly high cost of providing the necessary services for the disabled residents of the state's developmental centers."

And they did it dishonestly, according to the complaint: "Defendants have instructed plaintiffs' treating professionals to include language in plaintiffs' individual habilitation plans indicating that Plaintiffs have requested discharge to settings other than Vineland Developmental Center, regardless of whether plaintiffs actually communicated such a request," the complaint states.

It adds: "As part of that plan, defendants also announced that they would close the West Campus of the Vineland Developmental Center. Defendants have taken significant steps in that plan and their plan to completely close the Vineland Developmental Center, including transferring and discharging residents without adequate transition plans, without guardian or residents' full and fair participation, without treating professionals' independent and sound assessments, without regard for residents' specific individual needs and desires, and without regard for the rights of residents.

"Contrary to defendants' public statements, plaintiffs have not requested discharge or transition from Vineland Developmental Center."

The class claims: "Defendants know or should know of the increased danger of death, abuse and neglect to which plaintiffs will be subjected if they are discharged from the Vineland Center in accordance with defendants' political plan."

The class seeks an injunction preventing the defendants from transferring residents until a proper, recommended facility and/or treatment plan has been evaluated and deemed appropriate, and damages for civil rights violations and violations of the Americans With Disabilities Act, the Rehabilitation Act, and the Medicaid Act.