New Jersey's 11th Legislative District

Senator Jennifer Beck

Senator Jennifer Beck

Advanced: Beck’s ‘Stephen Komninos’ Law’ to Protect Developmentally Disabled from Abuse

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The Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee has advanced “Stephen Komninos’ Law,” bipartisan legislation sponsored by Senator Jennifer Beck to protect individuals with developmental disabilities from abuse and neglect, by improving transparency and accountability among caregivers and at the 2,340 group homes, developmental centers and day programs across the state.

Sen. Jennifer Beck’s “Stephen Komninos Law” has passed the Senate Budget Committee. The law is named for a 22-year-old man who died at the hands of a neglectful caregiver. (SenateNJ)

The law is named for a 22-year-old man with intellectual disabilities who suffered 16 separate substantiated incidents of abuse between 2004 and 2007. Stephen passed when he was left unsupervised, against medical orders. According to published reports, his caregiver was allowed to return to work despite the fact that he had been found by DHS to have neglected not only Stephen, but another client as well.

“Stephen Komninos was abused not once, but multiple times before he died at the hands of a neglectful caregiver,” Senator Jennifer Beck (R-Monmouth) said. “Unannounced site visits, faster parental notification, and stronger penalties can and will save lives.”

“Stephen Komninos’ Law” (S-516) would require the Department of Human Services to conduct two unannounced site visits, to check if patients are at risk or are being subjected to abuse, neglect or exploitation by a caregivers. S-516 also requires facilities to notify families a soon as possible, but no more than 60 minutes after a resident suffers an injury.

The bill would also increase penalties for failing to report an incidence of abuse or neglect, and requires drug testing as a condition of employment. The penalties collected would be used for caregiver training and visits conducted as required under this bill. An identical version of the bill passed the Assembly in December. S-516 now heads to the Senate floor for final legislative approval.

“There are 2,340 group homes in New Jersey. There must be a comprehensive system of checks and balances to ensure their residents are getting the proper care and are safe. Tom Komninos, Aileen Rivera, Martha Cray, and many others have long-advocated for their loved ones by fighting for this bill. We owe it to them not to let another legislative session go by without sending it to the Governor’s desk,” Senator Beck added.

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