Christie proposes streamlining N.J. services for devlopmentally disabled kids

Gov. Chris Christie’s budget plan calls for a consolidation of the services New Jersey provides to children with developmental disabilities.

“This division will be the point of entry for all families with children with developmental disabilities allowing them to benefit from a battery of services without having to be shuttled from agency to agency,” Christie said.

Advocates are welcoming the governor’s proposal to create a new division within the Department of Children and Families.

Families have long complained about having to act as their own case managers in getting services for their children through different state departments, said Debra Wentz, chief operating officer of the New Jersey Association of Mental Health and Addiction Agencies.

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“Having it all under one roof really will help coordination and efficiency,” she said. “It will also enable treatment providers, the state, and families to identify service gaps and to fill them in.”

Wentz, who said there is definite need for those services, said she hopes additional funds will be provided to meet the demand.

Cecilia Zalkind, executive director of Advocates For Children of New Jersey, said the plan is a good idea as long as it comes with the resources to support services that families need.

“I don’t know if additional funding is on the table or it’s maintaining the existing funding and moving it over. That would be a pretty critical question. Those resources would be essential,” Zalkind said. “Otherwise it’s just a structural change with no real improvement in services.”

The governor is using his executive authority to create the consolidation plan, which could be rejected by the Legislature.

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