New Jersey bolsters safeguards for developmentally disabled

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. (AP file photo)

A measure signed into law by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie strengthens protections for those with developmental disabilities.

The Stephen Komninos Law is named for a 22-year-old man who choked to death at a group home in 2007 when left unsupervised against medical orders.

The law requires more state oversight and consistent supervision of community-based residential programs, Christie said Friday.

“This new law will, we hope, prevent abuse, neglect, and exploitation of people with disabilities, establishing appropriately serious criminal penalties and mandating drug testing of each and every staff member,” he said.

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The law requires New Jersey’s Department of Human Services to conduct two unannounced visits every year at group homes to evaluate whether patients are at risk for abuse.

The developmental centers also must notify parents within two hours if a patient is injured, and representatives must meet twice a year with parents.

“I’m proud to be a part of strengthening our commitment to protecting people with developmental disabilities while giving their families a greater say, and along with that a greater peace of mind for the well-being of their loved ones,” he said.

The law also requires drug testing for direct care staff members and increases penalties for failing to report abuse.

Legislative estimates say the law could require 200 extra officials with price tag of about $24 million.
The administration estimates nearly 2,000 programs provide residential assistance to nearly 9,000 people.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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