TRENTON, N.J. — Developmentally disabled residents living in New Jersey group homes must be checked on by state officials twice a year and their families must be notified of any neglect or abuse under a new law Gov. Chris Christie enacted Friday.
Christie, a Republican, signed the legislation aimed at protecting developmentally disabled people living residential programs — commonly called group homes. The measure has been dubbed the Stephen Komninos’ Law, named for after Komninos who had intellectual disabilities and died when he choked in 2007 at age 22 after he was left unsupervised in a residential program.
The legislation that passed the Democrat-led Legislature unanimously requires Department of Human Services workers to conduct two unannounced site visits annually and also requires family members or a guardian to be notified within two hours if neglect or abuse is uncovered.
“We hope that what we’re doing here in conjunction with the Legislature will be something that will prevent as best we can any further suffering from families.” Christie said at a news conference after signing the measure.
Legislative estimates say the law could require 200 extra officials with a price tag of about $24 million, though federal Medicaid funds could bring the cost down to $16 million
The administration estimates nearly 2,000 programs provide residential assistance to nearly 9,000 people.
It’s not the first bill Christie enacted to address abuse of the developmentally disabled. In 2010, he enacted a measure that set up a registry for those who committed acts of abuse or neglect against the developmentally disabled.
In 2015, Christie signed legislation that established the criminal offense of endangering someone with a developmental disability.