NJ disability advocates in uproar over new Medicaid plan

    New Jersey is getting ready to submit plans next month to comply with a new federal rules for how individuals with developmental disabilities, such as autism, can receive services and support in their home or community, rather than in an institution.

    But critics say it could jeopardize housing projects catering to those individuals.

    The proposal calls for capping affordable housing for the developmentally disabled to just 25 percent of the units at any facility. Housing developer Tom Toronto, of United Way in Bergen County, says that would be a step back for people who want to live independently.

    “At the precise time when there’s such an urgent need for housing for people with developmental disabilities and when we have a design, the first publicly-financed housing of its type for people with autism in the country, that was meant to be replicated in other communities, we’re told that we can’t do that anymore,” said Toronto.

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    The plan also says disabled individuals must spend 75 percent of their time outside their home facility. But service provider William Testa, Director of Arc of Morris County, says New Jersey’s rules would go beyond what Washington requires.

    “The rule calls for the individual experience on the part of someone with a developmental disability to have an enriched community life,” said Testa. “That isn’t predicated on how long someone is outside of a building in a day program or who they live with. It’s really predicated on the quality of the service that they’re being delivered.”

    Lowell Arye, deputy commissioner for the Department of Human Services, says the plan represents a “fair interpretation of the federal rule.”

    If accepted by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, facilities must comply or risk losing Medicaid funding.


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