Court: U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey
Date Filed: May 19, 2005
Plaintiffs: New Jersey Protection and Advocacy, Inc.
Defendants: James Davy, in his Official Capacity as Commissioner of Human Services for the State of New Jersey
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In a July 29, 2009, settlement agreement signed with Disability Rights New Jersey (DRNJ), the New Jersey Department of Human Services agreed to release hundreds of people in the state psychiatric hospitals after years of institutionalization and to provide these individuals with the services they need to live independent, integrated lives in the community.
Under the agreement, over the next several years the state will provide community residential services for the approximately 300 people who have been awaiting discharge since before July 1, 2008. The state will also develop 1,065 new supportive housing units and other similar community settings between now and 2014 to eliminate the backlog of hospital residents awaiting discharge and prevent a recurrence of the problem.
The agreement settles a 2005 lawsuit, DRNJ v. Velez, brought in New Jersey federal court on behalf of DRNJ and its constituents by the Bazelon Center, the law firm of Pepper Hamilton and DRNJ attorneys. The suit challenged the illegal confinement of nearly 1,000 individuals, all of whom had been adjudicated ready for discharge from New Jersey's four state psychiatric hospitals. The complaint alleged that the state's failure to provide community services for these people violated its duty under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the U.S. Supreme Court's Olmstead decision to serve people with disabilities in the most integrated setting appropriate to their needs. The complaint also alleged violations of the state's due process obligations under the 14th Amendment to the Constitution.
These individuals have remained in psychiatric hospitals under New Jersey's Conditional Extension Pending Placement (CEPP) commitment status, which allows continued hospitalization of a person who is ready for discharge if no appropriate community services are available. According to the court complaint, the state abused its CEPP authority by failing to develop suitable community residences and by confining many of these individuals long beyond their need for hospitalization.
The agreement obligates the state to implement a plan to ensure the timely transfer of all CEPP people into the community.