New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is under intense pressure from the families of autistic and developmentally disabled citizens for vetoing legislation that would have ended his “Return Home New Jersey” program. Under his failed program, people with extreme developmental or other disabilities are being returned to the state in an effort to save $21 Million annually.
The Tyler Loftus case has become the quintessential demonstration of the program’s failure. Tyler is only one of 558 affected by the program. Tyler was successfully housed at The Woods School in Langhhorne, PA for seven years. He integrated well with others and even volunteered to work at several jobs while there. Once moved back to New Jersey, he was placed in group homes that lacked the resources for his care. Tyler was mistreated and began to run away to escape harassment and bullying, and the inadequate care of the staff.
Return Home New Jersey’s greatest failure is that the bureaucrats and even the Governor himself forgot to ensure that sufficient funds were set aside to bring New Jersey’s facilities up to par with those in other states. They failed to consider that the reason New Jersey’s extreme cases were sent out of state to begin with was that we lacked the facilities to care for them.
Tyler was eventually arrested because of his behavioral issues, and only after extreme pressure on government officials and politicians was he released and placed at Trinitas Hospital in Elizabeth – the only facility in NJ able to care for him, where they have only ten (10) beds. Unfortunately there are over 470 waiting for placement, many of them having been cared for out-of-state for over a decade. His troubled case appeared as the front page headline story in the Newark Star Ledger Sunday (Oct 12, 2014).
New Jersey legislators crafted and passed a bill to reverse Return Home New Jersey (RHNJ), sending it to the Governor for signature. Using line item veto powers, he killed that provision of the legislation. Presently, angry parents and family members are working to overturn the veto. A petition is underway to express the community’s outrage.
Christie has been losing popularity gained after Hurricane Sandy, mostly because of the Bridgegate scandal – a large portion of New Jerseyans believing he was involved, and certainly responsible for his staff. His polling numbers have shown a dramatic drop among likely voters in New Jersey, showing he is hovering at 47% favorable to 46% unfavorable. Tylergate (as we call it) is likely to tip the scales against him, following his recent troubles with Bridgegate.
We believe that New Jersey should spend the $21 million and protect its citizens no matter where they are, then build the kind of facilities to move them over time. However, we’d like to point out that in some of the post-Sandy financial gains in some counties little was spent on the autistic and disabled. Hudson County used their windfall to build a $20 Million golf course. Enough said?