Bipartisan legislation sponsored by Senate Republican Leader Tom Kean to create an ombudsman to serve as an advocate for individuals with intellectual or developmentally disabilities has passed the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee. The independent office would serve as a one-stop resource to help improve access to vital protections and state services.
Senate Republican Leader Tom Kean’s bill would create an independent advocate to help people with intellectual or developmental disabilities access services. (SenateNJ.com)
“New Jersey offers a number of support channels for individuals with developmental disabilities – so many, that it has become increasingly difficult for families to understand where they need to go, or who they need to talk to access these services,” Senator Kean explained. “Creating a central point of contact will ensure families can secure the resources they need to help their disabled loved ones thrive.”
Senator Kean’s bill, S-2392, would establish the Office of Ombudsman for Individuals with Intellectual or Developmental Disabilities and their Families. The independent office would operate in but not of the Department of the Treasury. The bill is also sponsored by Senator Brian Stack (D-Hudson.)
Under Senator Kean’s legislation, the Ombudsman would:
- Serve as a one-stop source of information for disabled individuals, their families and the public
- Work with the State Council on Developmental Disabilities to help individuals navigate and understand the process of obtaining state services and support
- Provide information and communication strategies to resolve disagreements with the State regarding the evaluation, placement, or provision of services – and ensure that such disputes are resolved fairly
- Identify patterns of complaints regarding rights and services of individuals with disabilities, and recommending strategies for improvements
- Assist in the creation of public information programs
“Establishing an independent office is essential to ensuring the ombudsman can remain impartial as they assist families in their efforts to not only access state services, but to resolve conflicts with state agencies as they arise,” Senator Kean added.
The bill would also require the ombudsman to issue an annual report to the Commissioners of Human Services and Children and Families. The report would include a summary of the services the ombudsman provided during the year and any recommendations for implementing procedures to provide individuals with services and support.
“I am glad that we found a bipartisan way to move forward with this vital legislation,” Senator Kean said. “As a legislature, we have a responsibility to work together to improve the policies and procedures designed to aid our state’s most vulnerable residents. I look forward to the day when we can review the ombudsman’s recommendations and work together to accomplish this noble goal.”
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