Senator Jeff Van Drew has requested that Senator Loretta Weinberg (D-Bergen), chair of the Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee, hold a special committee hearing on the planned closure of the Vineland Developmental Center – a provision included in the FY 2012 state budget that he has vowed to fight to reverse.
“This proposal threatens to dramatically alter the lives of hundreds of residents living in the developmental center, displacing a population of individuals with severe disabilities. As far as I’m concerned it’s a complete non-starter,” said Senator Van Drew. “A public hearing will allow us to develop a clear understanding of the administration’s plan and, more importantly, to bring everyone to the table to discuss alternatives and formulate a proposal that is best for the residents who call the facility home.”
Senator Van Drew, a member of the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee, has also expressed concern about the elimination of 1,400 full- and part-time jobs which would be caused by the closure, creating a dire economic situation in Cumberland County that would set off a ripple-effect throughout the region. He said he will use the budget hearings to focus on this aspect of the proposal. However, he believes it is critical to hold a separate examination of the impact the budget proposal would have on the facility’s residents, many who require intensive medical care and have lived at the developmental center for decades.
“The budget process cannot be exclusively about compiling a bunch of numbers to come up with a balanced spending plan,” added Van Drew. “We must also weigh the impact of cuts to our residents, especially those who often times do not have a voice in the debates taking place at the state level. As lawmakers, it is our responsibility to stand up for those who are most vulnerable in our society, and to ensure that decisions made within the walls of the Statehouse are in their best interest.”
Van Drew said he would take an active role in the committee’s discussions, sitting in on the hearing or, with permission from the Senate President, substituting for a member of the Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee during the proceedings.