Legislation protecting the developmentally disabled becomes law

 Senate Bill 599, Sponsored by Senate President Stephen Sweeney and Senator Jennifer Beck was signed into law today by Governor Chris Christie. The new law provides protections for individuals with developmental disabilities residing in community care residences.

“There is no shortage of protections we need to take to ensure that the people we are entrusting to care for residents with disabilities are qualified, capable, and above reproach,” said Sweeney. “This is an issue near and dear to me. I got into government because I did not like the way individuals with disabilities were being treated. While there is always more work to be done, we have made great strides in this area and I am thankful to see this bill now become law.”

S599 was drafted in response to the tragic death of Tara O’Leary, a 29-year-old woman with developmental disabilities who suffered neglect at the hands of her caregiver while her family, working with the legislators, sought to regain custody. At the time of her death in 2008, Tara O’Leary weighed only 43 pounds due to the treatment she had received. This bill amends an existing law concerning safeguarding and reporting information which may be necessary for civil or criminal proceedings following an allegation of abuse, neglect, or exploitation by a caregiver of an individual with a developmental disability

“This is a historic day for all families with have loved ones who are under the care of another,” Beck explained. “It will be an added comfort knowing that these vulnerable individuals will be protected by the added safeguards in this new law. It is our responsibility to ensure we protect those among us who are unable to protect themselves. I sincerely hope that today’s signing may be a small consolation to the O‘Leary family while offering some comfort to families who currently have loved ones in community care residences,”

 

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