Families of Developmentally Disabled Oppose Relocation

By Brenda Flanagan

For Maureen Clark, it’s personal. Her daughter Maura is 47, quadriplegic, with the mind of a 2-year-old. She suffers daily seizures and rarely visits home back in Sussex County.

Maura gets 24/7 nursing care at Woods in Pennsylvania — a center for the developmentally disabled — where she’s lived for 35 years. Her parents say it’s the only place that can care for her properly.

“As a parent, I can’t wish for any more than that,” Maureen said.

That’s why families of developmentally disabled patients like Maura bitterly opposed a new program that would uproot several hundred disabled adults and fast-track their relocation from out-of-state care centers such as Woods to less expensive facilities in New Jersey.

The families persuaded lawmakers to impose a moratorium, but Gov. Chris Christie vetoed those bills and told parents they could pay out of their own pocket to keep kids in pricier out-of-state.

“We feel sad about that, because I don’t think, unless you have a child with all her needs and the day to say struggle,” said Maureen.

Sponsors vowed to make history and override Gov. Christie. Democrat Valerie Vainieri Huttle launched a full court press with an op-ed piece and says Republicans voted for the moratorium. Why not an override?

“Sure it takes a full court press but I’m hoping we can do it just on the merits, on people’s conscience, and that it’s a human rights issue, a human services issue. It’s not a Democrat or Republican or a political issue,” she said.

The assemblywoman says it’d take seven of her Republican colleagues and three GOP over in the Senate to override the governor’s veto. The question: what are the chances of that actually happening?

“We’ve seen before where Republicans have said, ‘This is a great bill,’ suddenly change their minds when the governor springs a veto on them. And think we’re gonna see that again,” said Patrick Murray.

Monmouth Polling Institute’s Murray says perhaps a few GOP might vote to override.

“These legislators are more worried and scared in many cases about Gov. Christie than they are about their own future,” he said.

“I think we just have to talk to them, ask why they have to be in lockstep with the leadership of the party,” said Maura’s father Art Clark.

The Clarks admit it’s a long shot. But they’re still going to try.