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NJ Tightens Protections For Developmentally Disabled People

TRENTON, NJ (CBS) — New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has signed legislation that strengthens legal protections for people with developmental disabilities and gives families a greater say in their overall care

The bill was proposed after 22-year-old Stephen Komninos died while in a Haddonfield group home in 2007. Family members argued he was neglected by caregivers, and his father fought for a change in state law.

Christie noted this measure took a long time to get to his desk, in large part, because the issue is very complicated.

“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, I hope along with that, a greater peace of mind for the well-being of their loved ones,” the Governor said at the bill signing ceremony in Trenton on Friday.

He also insisted he wasn’t going after all those who treat the developmentally disabled.

“I don’t want anybody in the community that provides this care to believe that what this bill represents is an indictment of them. It doesn’t,” Christie added. “They are folks that care deeply about the people that they care for and have made part of their career each and every day. This is to make sure that only the good ones get to do it.”

State inspectors will be able to make unannounced visits twice a year to group homes. The Department of Human Services is authorized to hire additional staff to cover that requirement. How many will be brought in has not yet been decided.

The measure also requires treatment agencies and group home operators to notify a parent or guardian within two-to-eight hours if a patient is injured.

Meetings with families are also required at least twice a year to keep them in the loop.

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