Parent Advocates Win Battle to Open Day Programs for Adults with Disabilities!

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Parents of adult children with intellectual and developmental disabilities received great news this morning: The Murphy Administration has agreed to open day programs for this population after more than a year of closures.

NJ Education Report has been closely following parent activism efforts, which were to culminate in a protest on Saturday in Freehold. Unlike schools, daycare, bars, and restaurants, the New Jersey Department of Human Services and Division of Developmental Disabilities tied day program reopenings to the COVID-19 Activity Level Index (CALI), which essentially meant that there was no prospect for these programs to once again serve 12,000 adults with autism, cerebral palsy, and other disabilities.

This morning the agencies erased the CALI link. While programs will operate at reduced capacity, parents and their adult children now have hope of returning to some sort of normalcy.  (Full statement from Assistant Commissioner Jonathan Seifried below.)

Last week a report from NJ Ombudsman Paul Aronsohn described the state’s March 21st original guidance, which precluded any reopenings of day programs, as a source of many families’ outrage, concerns, and outrage, and “fear for the potential negative impact on their adult children and their families.” (Here’s a personal piece by Laura Waters.) Parents, already mobilized, started a petition that has already garnered over 6,600 signature. They lobbied politicans and heads of relevant agencies. They wrote letters and made phone calls.

And it worked. This morning a member of the Facebook group “Open Day Programs Protest” celebrated,”We did it you guys!!!”

New Jersey Parents Of Developmentally Disabled Adults

The Division understands that some participants and families are eager for more programs to re-open as soon as possible. In response to such feedback from individuals, families and guardians, and in continuous consultation with the New Jersey Department of Health, today the Division is releasing updated Congregate Day Program Re-Opening Requirementstion. The newly updated requirements allow providers to elect to open and operate congregate day programs at limited capacity, regardless of the current CALI designation.

Please note:

Day programs are congregate facilities serving individuals with varying levels of risk for developing complications following the contraction of COVID-19. An individual’s risk of contracting and transmitting COVID-19 is higher if they have not been vaccinated, if the individual is not able to adhere to distancing and masking guidelines, and when COVID-19 activity is higher in their region.

While all day programs may re-open, capacity is tied to the COVID-19 Activity Level Index (CALI) for the region in which the program is located.

Operating capacity based on CALI designation is as follows: 25% in Very High (Red); 50% in High (Orange); 50% in Moderate (Yellow); and full capacity in Low (Green).
Day programs will generally need two weeks to coordinate re-opening but may re-open earlier if they are able to come into compliance with the Congregate Day Program Re-Opening Requirements.

While vaccination continues not to be required for attendance, all eligible individuals are encouraged to be vaccinated.

State supplemental payments for congregate day providers are continuing.

The Division’s next COVID-19 update webinar is scheduled for Thursday, April 29 at 10:30 a.m., where this and other information will be shared. If you have not already done so, you may use the link below to register.

Register Now for April 29 COVID-19 Update Webinar

Thank you.
Jonathan Seifried
Assistant Commissioner
New Jersey Department of Human Services
Division of Developmental Disabilities

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