Action Alerts & News - National / State & Local


Senators Hatch & Wyden Reach Agreement to Extend State Children's Health Insurance Program for 5 Years

Hatch, Wyden Push to Extend CHIP Funding, Provide Additional Protections Senate Finance Committee Chairman and Ranking Member Propose Five-Year Funding Extension

WASHINGTON -Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) today announced an agreement to ensure stability for vulnerable children by extending the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) for five years. The lawmakers' proposal would also over time, transition CHIP to its traditional federal-state partnership and provide additional protections for low-income children and flexibility for states. "CHIP is an effective, bipartisan program that helps to provide health coverage for vulnerable children and families," said Hatch. "Congress needs to act quickly to extend the funding for CHIP. This agreement with Ranking Member Wyden is a good first start. Not only does this proposal provide uninterrupted funding for CHIP, but it also provides certainty and increased flexibility for states to administer the program. We will continue to work to advance this agreement in a way that does not add to the deficit, and I am hopeful we can move forward swiftly to ensure no lapse in care for our nation's most vulnerable children." "Today's strong, bipartisan agreement on the Children's Health Insurance Program is a great deal for America's kids," Wyden said. "I thank Chairman Hatch for his continued leadership, and I look forward to working with him and members of the Finance Committee to pass a five-year CHIP funding extension into law as soon as possible." Full legislative language will be released in the coming days. The current reauthorization for funding will expire on Sept. 30, 2017. The Senate Finance Committee, the committee with the largest jurisdiction in either House of Congress, oversees more than 50 percent of the federal budget and has jurisdiction over large portions of the American healthcare system, including Medicare, Medicaid and CHIP.

Take Action To Prevent Gutting of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) and Medicaid!

Congress has already begun the process of repealing of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) and it now is on the fast track to include major cuts to the Medicaid programs as part of the replacement plan. The result would be two major blows to individuals with disabilities.

People's health, services and lives are at stake! We need advocates to reach out to their Senators and Representatives to let them know why the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and Medicaid are essential to people with disabilities and their families.

Take Action:

Call your Senators and Representatives today at 202-224-3121. Now is the time for ACTION, remember every call matters! Don't let them take away health care and services for millions of people and replace it with a plan that CUTS Medicaid.

Background:

Message 1: Do NOT per capita cap Medicaid!

Medicaid is a jointly funded program with matching state and federal funds. Under a Medicaid per capita cap, the federal government would set a limit on how much to reimburse states based on enrollment. Unlike current law, funding would not be based on the actual cost of providing services. Much like the proposed block grants, the intent of the per capita caps is to restructure the program and save the federal government money. Inevitably there will be cuts in funding and other negative impacts to Medicaid recipients could include:
  • Losing home and community-based services and supports. Waiting lists would quickly grow.
  • Losing other critical services such as personal care, mental health, prescription drugs, and rehabilitative services. If funds become more scarce, states may decide to stop providing these services altogether.
  • Being forced into unnecessary institutionalization. States could return to the days of "warehousing" people with disabilities in institutions.
  • Shifting the costs to individuals or family members to make up for the federal cuts. The costs of providing health care and long term services and supports will not go away, but will be shifted to individuals, parents, states,and providers.

Message 2: Do not repeal the Affordable Care Act's protections for people with disabilities!

The ACA is the most significant law for people with disabilities since the Americans with Disabilities Act:
  • Because of the ACA, health insurers can't deny health insurance if you have a disability or chronic condition.
  • Because of the ACA, there aren't arbitrary financial limits to how much health care you can get in a year or in your lifetime.
  • Because of the ACA, more people with disabilities receive supports and live in the community, not institutions.

Bill limiting solitary confinement in N.J. heads to Christie - Impacts Youth Waived to the Adult Prison System

A bill strictly limiting the use of solitary confinement in New Jersey's prisons is headed to Gov. Chris Christie's desk after bein passed by the state Assembly. The bill requires prisons and jails to use solitary confinement only as a last resort, restricting its use to 15 consecutive days or 20 days in a two-month period. It also bans the practice for inmates who are mentally ill, pregnant or have other special needs, and requires daily medical evaluations for prisoners in solitary. Read more HERE.

Demanding Dignity: Effects of prison solitary confinement - Senators Lesniak and Cunningham, and NJ Youth Caucus

Read the article HERE

WNYC News - Kids in Prison: Getting Tried as An Adult Depends on Skin Color: Featuring NJ Youth Caucus

Read the article HERE

Ask your State Senator to Support S.677 to Challenge Racial Disparity in the New Jersey Criminal Justice System

S.677 - Requires racial and ethnic impact statement for certain bills and regulations affecting sentencing, will be considered in the Senate Law and Public Safety Committee on June 20, 2016! We need your help to raise awareness on this important bill as it makes it way to the Assembly and eventually to the Governor's desk!

The Problem:

Persistent racial disparities in the justice system have been shown to harm both individuals in the system as well as their families and communities. This effect is most pronounced in the dramatically high rate of incarceration of African American males in particular. New Jersey's prison population has more than doubled in recent decades, growing from 6,087 in 1980 to 21,590 in 2014. This growth has been accompanied by an increasingly disproportionate racial disparity, with significantly high rates of incarceration for African Americans, who now constitute over 60% of committed New Jersey inmates, compared to the African American proportion of 12.9% in the general population of New Jersey.

The Solution: S.677 would challenge racial disparity in targeted ways.

  • S.677 will govern a process for racial impact statements, a tool for lawmakers to evaluate the potential disparities of proposed legislation on persons of color prior to adoption and implementation. Analogous to environmental impact statements, they assist legislators in detecting unforeseen policy ramifications before the change is adopted, rather than once they have been implemented.
  • S.677 would require the racial and ethnic impact statement to include a statistical analysis of how the change in policy would affect racial and ethnic minorities.
  • S.677 would amend public distribution for notices to appear in the Register for adoption, amendment, or repeal of any rule to include a racial impact statement.
Overall, S.677 is a step in the right direction to challenge racial disparity in New Jersey. In recent years other states – Connecticut, Iowa, and Oregon -- have adopted similar legislation.

Five Ways You Can Help S.677 Pass Right Now:

  1. Ask your Senator to Support S.677 - Call your senator today and ask them to support S.677, legislation to require racial and ethnic impact statements for proposed legislation.
  2. You can sign on to support the legislation here.
  3. Help Us Share The Good News On Twitter - tweet this post: Challenge #RacialDisparity in the New Jersey #criminaljustice system. Support #S677 sponsored by Sen. Ron Rice today!
  4. Spread Awareness on Facebook - share the status below on Facebook "Challenge #RacialandEthnicDisparity in the New Jersey criminal justice system". Ask your state senator to support #S.677! New Jersey has significantly high rates of incarceration for African Americans, who constitute over 60% of committed New Jersey inmates, compared to the African American proportion of 12.9% in the general population of New Jersey.
  5. Forward this to everyone in your network so we can continue to build the momentum!
Also please download the report issued by The Sentencing Project which shows New Jersey as the Nation's leader in racial disparities in prisons.

Fighting for Salvation and Social Justice
Rev. Charles F. Boyer

Challenging Racial Disparities in the Criminal Justice System

A state coalition has developed to promote policy solutions for the racial disparity that underlies the state's juvenile and criminal justice systems. The initiative has coalesced around authorizing racial impact statements as a policy goal. Racial impact statements are a tool for lawmakers to evaluate potential disparities of proposed legislation prior to adoption and implementation. Similar to fiscal impact statements, they assist legislators in detecting unforeseen policy ramifications.

Coalition partners include faith leaders with the AME Ministers Coalition and the New Jersey Parent Caucus. Members are working closely with bill champion, Sen. Ronald Rice, on strategies to build momentum and advance the measure through the legislative process. Current tactics involve garnering additional support from state faith leaders and public education efforts with state advocates interested in criminal justice reform.

  1. Mental Health Matters is SB 286; it passed the Senate Health Committee (Congratulations, MHM Team!) and is in Senate Finance now.
  2. Protecting Quality Child Care is SB 146; it passed through the Senate and is now being introduced and assigned to a committee in the House of Delegates today.
  3. Right to Work is SB 1 and passed the Senate and passed out of House judiciary with a 13-10 vote. It will be on first reading on the floor today. (We are opposing this bill...keep an eye out for an action alert soon!)
  4. Second Chance for Employment; introduced in the House as HB 2604 and referenced to the judiciary committee. It was also introduced in the Senate as SB 411 and referenced to Senate judiciary. (We want these bills to get some traction, and we will be sending an action alert for this too!)
  5. Earned Income Tax Credit; introduced in the House as HB 2630 and is in the House finance committee.
  6. Juvenile Justice is SB 414 and was referred to Senate judiciary and then finance.
  7. Stop Meth Labs does not have an official bill yet, but please stay tuned.
  8. Food Sourcing Bill is SB 390 and is currently in government organization committee. The Food Tax Incentive Bill is SB 399 and is in agriculture and rural development and then will go to finance.
  9. Shared Use Bill was introduced as HB 4018; it is in education committee and then will move to finance.
  10. Broadband Internet Infrastructure Expansion SB 315 which passed out of transportation and infrastructure committee and is not in government organization. HB 2551 is also the definition of broadband and is currently in House judiciary.

To follow these bills, click here. This takes you to the legislative website bill tracking page. Once there all you have to do is type in the number under bill quick search. It will tell you where it is give you the full bill to read.


The Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act (SRCA) offers some initial answers to these problems

  1. Reduces mandatory minimums for non-violent drug crimes.
  2. Increases judicial discretion to sentence below mandatory minimum guidelines.
  3. Provides additional diversion options such as drug, mental health, and veteran courts to avoid prison sentences.
  4. Boosts opportunities for people in prison to earn time off for completing skills programming and drug treatment.
  5. Improves accuracy of federal criminal record keeping used by employers as a screening tool

This legislation makes good strides towards ending the crisis. Act now and Tell your Senator you support this Act!


The Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2015

This legislation was introduced by a bipartisan group of senators led by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley and Assistant Democratic Leader Dick Durbin. Among other provisions, it would:

  • end juvenile life without parole in the federal justice system by allowing youth sent to the federal system to seek parole after serving 20 years of their sentence;
  • limit solitary confinement for youth in federal custody; and
  • permit certain youth tried in federal court for nonviolent offenses to seal or expunge their records under certain circumstances.
>>One-page bill summary

>>Section-by-section analysis

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

For more information, contact:

Kathy Wright

908-994-7471

kathyw@njparentcaucus.org

 

ANALYSIS SHOWS CHILDREN & YOUTH TREATED UNFAIRLY

IN NEW JERSEY'S ADULT PRISON SYSTEM

Youth Suffer Long Term Solitary Confinement, Gross Racial & Ethnic Disparities, Justice by Geography, and Lack of Due Process

 

Elizabeth, New Jersey - A local study by the New Jersey Parents' Caucus (NJPC) of 472 children and youth, ages 14 to 17, who were waived, sentenced and incarcerated in New Jersey's adult prison system between 2007 - 2015, showed:

·         Gross racial and ethnic disparities: approximately 90% are youth of color; 72% are African American males.

·         Justice by geography: Rates of incarceration in the adult prison system vary significantly across counties in New Jersey, suggesting that justice depends on where one lives, not on the facts of a given case.

·         Youth are regularly deprived of due process: Approximately 30% of the 472 youth waived to adult court during the study period spent more than 2 years incarcerated, between their arrest date and their sentencing date, violating their right to a speedy trial.

·         Youth are regularly put in solitary confinement - especially youth with mental health disorders: Although solitary confinement is known to be psychologically damaging, especially to children, 53% of these youth spent a total of approximately 15,359 days (42 years) in solitary confinement between 2010 and 2015; 5 percent spend over a year there, and about 4 percent spent 2 years or more in solitary.  Nearly 70 percent of those placed in solitary had a mental health disorder, with nearly 37% having two or more diagnoses.

·         Youth suffer abuse while in adult prison: once incarcerated in an adult prison, one in four youth surveyed reported physical abuse; 5% reported sexual abuse.

 

These disturbing statistics appear in NJPC's new data brief, entitled The Incarceration of Children & Youth in New Jersey's Adult Prison System: New Jersey Youth Justice Initiative, The brief is comprised of comprehensive state data which NJPC gathered from the New Jersey Department of Corrections (NJ DOC) on 472 children incarcerated in the adult prison system. The data largely covers the period 2007 - 2015, though some information gathered dates back to 2003.  In addition to the data retrieved from the NJ Department of Corrections, NJPC has compiled additional data from a subset of the same population (120 youth) by means of a survey provided to incarcerated youth and their parents, caregivers and family members.

 

"These data show how broken our system is," said Kathy Wright, executive director of the NJPC, a parent of a justice-involved youth, and a fellow in the National Juvenile Justice Network's Youth Justice Leadership Institute. "We should not be sending youth to the adult system, where their rights are violated, they are unsafe, and their mental health needs go unmet. New Jersey's juvenile justice system was created because as a society, we realized our children, due to their age, can be rehabilitated, and they should be given the opportunity to do so."

 

Results from the data brief highlight a myriad of injustices that continue to plague New Jersey's justice system. Most blatant are the gross racial and ethnic disparities that exist in justice system. Youth of color are disproportionately represented among those waived to the adult prison system in New Jersey, making up approximately 90% of youth included in NJPC's data set; 72% are African American males, exceeding all other ethnic groups and genders. Furthermore, rates of youth incarceration in the adult prison system vary significantly across counties in New Jersey, suggesting that justice depends on where one lives, not on the facts of a given case. For example, in Camden County, 14 to 17 year olds make up 5.8% of the population of children between the ages of 0-17, but make up 15.3% of our data set between 2007 and 2015. In comparison, in Hunterdon County, where youth 14 to 17 make up 6.3% of the population of children between the ages of 0-17, exactly 0% were incarcerated in the adult system between 2007 and 2015.

Once incarcerated, children and youth are frequently subject to long-term solitary confinement, even though solitary confinement is known to be psychologically damaging, especially to children. Worse, one in four youth surveyed reported physical abuse, and 5% reported sexual abuse. Finally, and most disturbingly, the needs of New Jersey youth are not being met in their communities. Almost three out of four (71%) of youth waived to the adult system were known to at least two child-serving agencies prior to their involvement in adult court, with the majority having been involved in the mental health system. Of those youth, more than two out of three children have two or more mental health diagnoses.

According to Wright, "Given the large number of New Jersey youth involved in multiple child-serving systems prior to their incarceration in the adult system, this data brief serves as a call to action for state officials, child-serving systems, community-based organizations, legislators, and other interested stakeholders throughout the state of New Jersey to revisit the way in which we view and provide services to all children and youth, regardless of their race, ethnicity or geographical location, and the way in which services are provided to them and their families. Somehow, we have lost our way. The institution of racism has reared its ugly head and we are funneling kids of color who need our help into the juvenile justice system where, unlike the schoolhouse, there is no eject button, and they cannot say no."

NJPC's The Incarceration of Children & Youth in New Jersey's Adult Prison System: New Jersey Youth Justice Initiative recently posted on the National Center for Mental Health and Juvenile Justice (NCMHJJ) on their homepage, the National Black Disability Coalition, National Juvenile Justice Network, and the Campaign for Youth Justice. The data brief is also available for download on the New Jersey Parents Caucus website at at http://www.newjerseyparentscaucus.org.  

About the New Jersey Parents's Caucus: The NJ Youth Justice Initiative, a program of the New Jersey Parents Caucus, is tracking and corresponding with currently incarcerated youth and their parents and family members. The New Jersey Parents' Caucus, Inc. is a coalition of parents, caregivers, family members and youth whose mission is to ensure that every family who has children with special emotional and behavioral needs is given an opportunity to play a strong and active role in the conceptualization, development and delivery of effective and timely services for their children.

It is the position of the New Jersey Parents' Caucus, Inc. (NJPC) and its membership that the state's current policies which promote the trying, sentencing and incarceration of children and youth between the ages of 14 and 17 in adult system are unjust and require further review. No youth should face an increased likelihood of adult waiver for a similar crime in a similar circumstance because of race, ethnicity, geography or socio-economic status. As well, for those children who are waived to the adult system, safety, rehabilitative services, treatment, and appropriate educational services and support, must be provided, particularly for those children with a history of mental health needs and/or special education involvement.

 


The House Appropriations Subcommittee Proposal DEFUNDS Juvenile Justice Programs! This means:

  • No federal dollars for prevention programs!
  • No resources for evidence-based interventions for at-risk youth!
  • No core protections for kids in the system!

CALL HOUSE APPROPRIATORS TODAY!

There is BIPARTISAN SUPPORT in the Senate for legislation to reauthorize these important juvenile justice programs.

Tell your Member of Congress in the House to support restoring funding for JJ programs!


S. 381, the Bringing Missing Children Home Act of 2015, would require that a portion of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention's grant to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children be used to establish a cyber tipline for online child sex trafficking. The bill was introduced Feb. 5 by Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) and referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee. A companion bill, H.R. 1115, was introduced on Feb. 26 by Rep. Joyce Beatty (D-OH).

H.R. 562, the Improving Education for Foster Youth Act, would require schools that receive funds under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act to establish policies ensuring that youth in foster care who are required to change schools may transfer credits and receive partial credits for work successfully completed. The bill was introduced on Jan. 27 by Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL). It was referred to the House Committee on Education and the Workforce.

H.R. 731, the Justice and Mental Health Collaboration Act of 2015, expands assistance provided to eligible youth and adults. For funding purposes, the bill would give preference to adult and juvenile justice collaborations that focus on individuals who are at moderate to high risk for recidivism. The bill was introduced by Rep. Richard Nugent (R-FL) on March 16. It was referred to the House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security and Investigations.

H.R. 1435, the Supportive School Climate Act of 2015, would amend the Elementary and Secondary Education Act to require schools to establish plans that promote positive school climates. The bill would, among other things, place an emphasis on positive prevention measures instead of exclusionary discipline practices. The bill was introduced by Rep. Danny Davis (D-IL) on March 18. It was referred to the House Committee on Education and the Workforce.

Coalition for Juvenile Justice


Courtesy of the Arc Family Advocacy Program: 

 

Dear Families,

 

We want to bring to your attention a proposed plan that will fundamentally shift the way services are provided to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in New Jersey. The State is recommending a series of changes that may have a serious impact on your loved one. Families and stakeholders have until Feb. 26, 2015 to provide feedback.

 

Background:

  • The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the federal agency responsible for parts of Medicaid,  recently released a final rule to ensure that Medicaid's Home and Community-Based Services (HCBS) programs provide full access to the benefits of community living and offer services in the most integrated settings. (Plan is attached)
  • Each state must now submit a Transition Plan to CMS that explains how it will come into compliance with this final rule.
  • States will have five years to come into compliance with the CMS requirements.

_______________________________________________

 

Within New Jersey's compliance plan the Department of Human Services has included a number of provisions of concern to us that may concern you too. They are as follows:  

 

Proposed Plan:

Individuals who attend a day program will be required to spend at least 75 percent of their time in activities in the community, not at the day program site. 

 

Issue: 

  • The requirement fails to take into a consideration the range of developmental disabilities and the capabilities of each served individual.
  • The 75 percent benchmark may be very challenging for community providers to implement and should difficulties arise, steps to modify the plan in the future may be challenging.
  • This proposed standard is not a CMS standard but rather an arbitrary requirement being set by New Jersey's Department of Human Services.

________________________________


 

Proposed Plan: The Transition Plan recognizes that requirements may need to be modified for individuals with significant medical and/or behavioral challenges in residential settings if the need is assessed, justified and documented in a person's service plan.
 

Issue:

  • However, the plan makes NO mention of modifications for individuals with the same challenges when it comes to day programs. As currently written, the Transition Plan would require all day program attendees, regardless of medical or behavioral challenge, to participate in the community for at least 75 percent of the day.

________________________________

 

Proposed Plan: There will be NO overall group schedule for participants. Each participant could choose his or her own activities and schedule.

 

Issue:

  • The Arc of New Jersey is a strong supporter of community involvement and choice but this requirement is a concern because current levels of staffing won't support it.
  • Although community integration requires additional staffing to ensure health and safety is maintained for all participants at all times, NO additional funding is being allocated for community providers to ensure this safety standard is continued, under this new rule.

________________________________

 

Proposed Plan: DDD will modify its regulatory policies to ensure that in apartment settings no more than 25 percent of units are specifically set aside for individuals with disabilities.

Issue:

  • The language does not explicitly address existing supervised apartment programs where people with I/DD reside in more than 25 percent of the units.
  • The Arc of New Jersey believes that a grandfather clause should be inserted into the language to protect people's current apartment programs.

________________________________

 

Proposed Plan: The existing portfolio of licensed group home beds will remain available to serve individuals who need and select that choice.

 

Issue:

  • This language implies a moratorium on development of any additional group homes.
  • If no additional capacity is developed, this could impact individuals who want a group home in the future or families who want that option for their loved one.
  • This implied freeze on new group homes is also concerning to individuals with the greatest challenges for whom supervised apartments will not meet their needs. 

_______________________________________________ 

 

 

Taking Action:

  • If you believe these proposed changes will negatively impact individuals with I/DD who need services, it is critical that you weigh in with CMS.


     
  • Your personal stories are what matter most! CMS takes the concerns of families and their stories very seriously. It is important that you explain, in your own words, why these changes concern you. Include in your feedback how these proposals will have an effect on your loved one's life. Don't worry about the format or length of your comments; just concentrate on your experiences. 

_______________________________________________ 

 

Steps for Providing Input:

  • Send by mail to:lady-keyboard-hands.jpg
    • HCBS Rules c/o Lowell Arye, Deputy Commissioner 
      NJ Department of Human Services 
      P.O. Box 700 
      Trenton, NJ 08625-0700
       
  • Email to: 
  • Testimony:
    • As part of the public comment process, CMS will read, review and consider all submitted comments.
    • Oral and written comments can be delivered at two public input sessions. The sessions are scheduled for:
      • Wednesday, February 4, 2015 from 10:00 a.m. to noon at the NJ Department of Human Services, located at 222 South Warren Street Trenton, NJ.
      • Thursday, February 19, 2015 from 10:00 am to noon at the Department of Children and Families (DCF) Training Facility, located at 30 Van Dyke Avenue, New Brunswick, NJ. 

 _______________________________________________ 

 

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Let's get more members of Congress involved in the dialogue on meaningful mental health reform

Representative Paul Tonko (D-NY) wrote an opinion letter on the topic of mental health reform for The Hill website earlier this week. Members of Congress, just like the American public they represent, have widely divergent views on how to approach meaningful mental health reform. We need more congressional representatives to share their views and engage with each other in constructive dialogue about how to address what most would agree is a broken mental health service delivery system.

Network readers are well-versed in our reporting of the efforts of Representative Tim Murphy (R-PA) in his campaign for mental health reform through the Helping all Families in Mental Health Crisis Act. His tireless efforts spurred us on to engage in respectful dialogue with advocates who have widely divergent views on how to approach meaningful mental health reform. The Children's Mental Health Network will continue to press for mental health advocates to come together in dialogue. We are hopeful that members of Congress who have differing perspectives on how to approach mental health reform will do the same.

I encourage you to read Representative Tonko's post (included below) and then ask your Representative to write an opinion article of their own, sharing their thoughts on the challenge of meaningful mental health reform. We need more members of Congress actively engaged in the dialogue.

For more info see Bryant-Comstock Morning Zen


Keeping All Students Safe- TASH Model State Bill on Restraint and Seclusion

TASH has led the fight against the use of aversive behavioral interventions for many years. Last year, the Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights data collection reported that restraint and seclusion use is climbing in public schools. Use is disproportionate: 75% of all incidents involve students with disabilities, and children of color with and without disabilities are twice as likely to be targeted compared to other students. Research tells us that restraint and seclusion serves no benefit, and is traumatic and dangerous for children and for staff. Read more HERE.


ABLE ACT: The ABLE Act allows individuals who were deemed disabled before the age of 26 to save money in specific accounts and not jeopardize necessary government benefits. Before The ABLE Act was passed an individual with a disability who relied on government benefits like SSI and Medicaid could not save more than $2,000 or else they would lose healthcare benefits, as well as home and community supports which would mean they could lose housing as well as job supports which would also cause a loss of employment.


The New Jersey Legislature and United States Congress offers parents and family members an excellent opportunity to advocate for meaningful reform that will have wide-ranging effects for parents and children in the Mental Health and Juvenile Justice system. Both legislatures are comprised of representatives, all of whom are directly elected by the people from your legislative districts. Their most important responsibility is to create the laws that everyone must follow!

The New Jersey Parents' Caucus will publicize legislation that will affect the areas of Mental Health and Juvenile Justice. There will be members of the New Jersey Legislature and United States Congress who'll push to make thoughtful changes that'll improve the services our children require, and there will be legislators who will push back. Their names and statements on the matter will be made available on our website and Facebook page (facebook.com/njpcyouthjusticeinitiative and facebook.com/newjerseyparentscaucus).

The unification of your individual voices is what makes this coalition of parents and caregivers strong. It is with your support by way of signing and mailing letters to representatives, reaching out to other families, publicizing stories of injustice and mistreatment, etc., is how parents, family members, and our young people will succeed in making sure that all children are able to receive all the support they need to become loving, contributing adults. The New Jersey Parents' Caucus will provide all the tools our coalition needs through the Legislative Advocacy Training, in addition to our Professional Parent Advocacy training programs. Families will learn how to reach out to legislators in order to have the opportunity to effectively share their stories and relevant information about the issues. The New Jersey Parents' Caucus will also reach out to legislators in order to personally connect them with families whom a bill will impact, and to collaborate on events and actions that will increase awareness and garner support on issues or specific bills.


National

House companion legislation to Senators Booker and Paul's REDEEM Act.

Reps. Wolf and Fattah, Chairman and Ranking Member, respectively, of the House CJS Appropriations Subcommittee and creators of the Chuck Colson Criminal Justice Task Force, are introducing the House companion legislation.

To learn more, read the full article HERE.

Prohibiting Detention of Youth Status Offenders Act of 2014

H.R. 4123, the Prohibiting Detention of Youth Status Offenders Act of 2014 would eliminate locked confinement of status offenders. Under the Juvenile Justice Delinquency and Prevention Act (JJDPA), youth who have committed a status offense such as running away from home or skipping school, cannot be placed in locked confinement unless their behavior violates a valid court order. Rep. Cardenas' bill, gets rid of this exception. The bill requires all states, within one year of the legislation's passage, to stop using the valid court order (VCO) exception. States can be granted an additional 12 months to eliminate their use of VCOs if they are able to show hardship. Status offenders do not belong behind bars as overwhelming evidence indicates that once in the prison system the likelihood of repeat incarcerations increases. Efforts need to be addressed to alternative treatment strategies that do not involve incarceration.

Protecting Youth From Solitary Confinement Act

H.R. 4124, the Protecting Youth From Solitary Confinement Act prohibits solitary confinement of individuals who are being held in juvenile facilities, and are under federal custody. The bill further requires that the Director of the Board of Prisons compile and present annual data on the number of juveniles who are placed in solitary confinement at their facilities. The report will include demographic information, and data on why and how long the youth was placed in solitary. H.R. 4124, was sent to the Judiciary Committee for their review.

Presidents FY 2015 budget

The budget was released this week. The link above provides the most clear way to see where there were cuts and additions happened. Please pay close attention to HHS funds. There was a cut to that budget for 2015. Most of the cuts will be to discretionary funds.(Courtesy of the National Federation)

State and Local

Sens. Rand Paul and Cory Booker Cross Aisle for Bill on Juvenile Records, Solitary Confinement - Chronicle of Social Change

A bill introduced this week by Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.) would automatically seal or expunge the records of certain juveniles and limit the use of solitary confinement in juvenile facilities. The REDEEM Act - short for Record Expungement Designed to Enhance Employment Act of 2014 - is aimed at lowering the employment barriers created by criminal and juvenile records. "Our current system is broken and has trapped tens of thousands of young men and women in a cycle of poverty and incarceration," said Paul, in a statement announcing the legislation. "Many of these young people could escape this trap if criminal justice were reformed, if records were expunged after time served, and if non-violent crimes did not become a permanent blot preventing employment."

Read the full article HERE.

New Jersey 2013-2014 Budget

Chris Christie signed the fiscal year 2014 budget into law on June 28, 2013. Below are some provisions that will impact people with disabilities.

  • Special education is funded at $926.035,000.00.
  • The Division of Developmental Disabilities receives $6,115,00.00 in state funding and $9,214,000.00 in federal funding.
  • Community Services Waiting List is funded at $2,968,000.00.
  • Division of Mental Health Services and Addiction Services is funded at $17,547,000.00.
  • Support for Patients in County Psychiatric Hospitals is funded at $130,165,000.00.
  • Olmstead Support Services is funded at $88,817,000.00.
  • Division of Disability Services is funded at $1,461,000.00.
  • Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired is funded at $11,016,000.00.
  • Division of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing is funded at $1,042,000.00.
  • Early Intervention Services is funded at $85,973,000.00.

Special Education School Placement
Governor Christie recently signed a bill requiring the State Board of Education to promulgate regulations requiring school districts to take into account matters of continuity and consistency in determining special education placements during the IEP process. Primarily addressing the needs of children with autism, it seeks to address consistency in location, services and staffing.
Read it HERE

Special Education Task Force
A special education task force bill, establishing a task force to study and make recommendations about special education services in New Jersey, passed both the New Jersey State Assembly and the Senate and is awaiting the governor's signature. The task force would consist of 17 members, including parents, the Arc of New Jersey, the Statewide Parent Advocacy Network, the Council on Developmental Disabilities, the Garden City Coalition, the New Jersey PTA, and the New Jersey Education Association, among other members.
Read it HERE

Developmental Disabilities Parents Bill of Rights
Bill A1134 would provide " authorized family members", defined as " a parent who is a guardian of a person with a developmental disability, or a relative of a person with a developmental disability who is authorized by the person's guardian, or by the person if the person is his own guardian" , with the right to obtain information from State agencies, health care professionals, service providers and other agencies, regarding their family member with a developmental disability, to be treated with consideration and respect, to receive telephone calls in a timely manner, to receive information in writing, to be free from retaliation if a complaint is made, and to be involved in the person's plan of care. It passed the Assembly unanimously and is awaiting action by the Senate.
Read it HERE

Mental Health Parity Bill
The bill S1253 would require the State Health Benefits Plan and the School Employees Health Benefits Plan to cover alcohol and substance abuse services under the same terms and conditions as other illnesses. If the plan does not cover alcohol and substance abuse services, there is no requirement for coverage. The bill was heard in the Pensions and Health Benefits Commission which recommended that the bill not be enacted. It was then heard and released from the Senate Health, Human Services, and Senior Citizens Committee and is awaiting action in the Senate Budget Committee.

Education - Equal Opportunities for Extracurricular Athletics
The Department of Education, Office of Civil Rights released guidance clarifying the legal responsibilities of school districts to ensure students with disabilities have an equal opportunity to participate in afterschool athletics and clubs. Reasonable accommodations must be made to allow students with disabilities to try out and compete.
Read it HERE


AACAP Call to Action for Children's Mental Health

Despite increased public attention, Congressional focus on the prevention, early identification, and treatment of childhood mental illness has stalled. During AACAP's Annual Meeting (October 22-26), join your colleagues in urging Congress not to lose sight of the needs of children with mental illnesses. Sign our petition HERE.


Help 60 Minutes Get the Story Right on People with Schizophrenia

October 8, 2013 - Today, the Bazelon Center and other concerned organizations sent a letter to CBS' 60 Minutes in response to "Untreated Mental Illness an Imminent Danger?" We ask all of our supporters and allies to tell 60 Minutes to devote a future segment to presenting a different, factual perspective on people with psychiatric disabilities than that offered by one psychiatrist whose highly controversial views appear to fuel "Imminent Danger." "Imminent Danger" paints individuals diagnosed with schizophrenia as ticking time bombs with the potential to become violent at any time, and as hopeless and helpless people whose primary life options are hospitalization, homelessness, or incarceration. The segment ignores the fact that individuals with schizophrenia can and do live fulfilling lives, start their own families, work, live independently, and participate fully in their communities.The segment also inaccurately suggests that the primary need in our mental health system is for more hospitalization and forced treatment. In fact, a long history of reports and a virtual national consensus indicate that our mental health system is broken because we are failing to invest in effective community services and supports, such as supported housing, supported employment, mobile crisis services, peer supports, and mobile community support teams. These resources enable people with significant psychiatric disabilities to live in their own homes, lead their own lives, and thrive like anyone else.

What You Can Do:

  • Tell 60 Minutes success stories of people with schizophrenia and other psychiatric disabilities.
  • Mention any community services or supports - such as those listed above - that enabled these individuals to lead their own lives.
  • Tell 60 Minutes to devote a future segment to presenting a different perspective of people with psychiatric disabilities.

How? Write and/or email:
Jeffrey Fager
60 Minutes Executive Producer
CBS Corporation
524 West 57th St.
New York, NY 10019
SEND EMAIL *Use "ATTN Jeffrey Fager" on the Subject Line.

Thank you for your advocacy!


 


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