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New Jersey’s Returning Home Program

A battle is playing out in Trenton over Governor Christie’s attempt to balance the budget by delaying payments intended to make up for years of underfunding of the State’s government pension system.   I have written in the past about how increasingly scrutinizing New Jersey has been with regard to Medicaid applications.    New Jersey is in dire financial straits and it doesn’t appear to be getting better anytime soon.

Another example of cost cutting that could affect the most needy in our society was highlighted in the front page of the Star Ledger yesterday.   There are many aspects to the Medicaid program.   New Jersey for many years has arranged for some of its most severely disabled residents to be housed in institutional settings out of state.  But that is changing under a 2 year old initiative called Returning Home New Jersey.

The trend over the past 30 years across the country has been away from institutional settings and more towards smaller community based residential options. New Jersey’s Division of Developmental Disabilities (DDD) website states the purpose of the Returning Home program is to bring back to the State individuals who have been living in out of state facilities so they can be closer to their families in homelike settings.  The website also mentions that by doing so, it expects to qualify for federal  matching funds.

The State believes that these additional funds provided by the federal government under the Community Care Waiver program will allow it to help solve the housing problem for many more disabled individuals who have been on waiting lists for years.  There are approximately 8000 people on the waiting list for housing,   Some have been on that list for years.  With an aging population the number will likely continue to grow.  But, will the State’s plan work?

The reason New Jersey agreed to send some if its disabled residents out of state in the first place is because there wasn’t a suitable in state alternative.    Many families are saying that is still the case, yet the State is moving full speed ahead with the program, putting their loved ones safety and well being at risk.

The Star Ledger article highlights a few examples in which moves were made to in state settings that were ill equipped to handle the disabled individual who was transferred there, leaving families angry and worried.

And will additional federal funds allow the State to provide services to more people?  I would be skeptical of the State’s math.   So often they miss the mark badly.  But what is clear is that changes in Medicaid are and will continue to be made as more residents need services and there is fewer tax revenue to pay for it.  Stay tuned.