Bipartisan NJ Legislative Disability Caucus & Advocates Discuss Access to Quality Healthcare Services For Individuals With Disabilities

Bipartisan NJ Legislative Disability Caucus & Advocates Discuss Access to Quality Healthcare Services For Individuals With Disabilities

Trenton, NJ – This week, the bipartisan New Jersey Legislative Disability Caucus met virtually with representatives from the New Jersey Council on Developmental Disabilities, The Boggs Center on Developmental Disabilities at Rutgers University, the New Jersey Hospital Association, and disability organizations from across the state for a continued conversation on increasing access to quality healthcare services for individuals with disabilities. Assembly Majority Leader Lou Greenwald, Co-Chair of the Caucus, led the discussion providing an update on efforts in the Legislature to bolster the healthcare workforce pipeline and eliminate other barriers to care, including increasing funding for mental and behavioral health services.

 

“I continue to be proud of the work this caucus does in ensuring individuals with disabilities are represented in all aspects of state policymaking” said Assembly Majority Leader Lou Greenwald (D-6). “As we saw throughout the Pandemic, nowhere is this representation more important than in access to quality healthcare. While New Jersey boasts some of the highest caliber healthcare anywhere in the country, physician shortages and other barriers can prevent disabled residents from receiving timely and needed care. Through the work of this caucus, I am confident we can bring attention to these issues and promote policy solutions that give all of our residents equal access to the best doctors and nurses our state has to offer” he concluded.

 

Dr. Deborah Spitalnik, Professor of Pediatrics at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School; the founding Executive Director of The Boggs Center on Developmental Disabilities at Rutgers University shared her expertise, providing data on healthcare disparities and the importance of training practitioners on treating individuals with unique needs.

 

Cathleen Bennett, CEO of the New Jersey Hospital Association, also joined the conversation, providing an industry perspective and offering insight into the challenges facing hospitals in delivery of care. She said she’s looking forward to greater collaboration with the Caucus to continue to move New Jersey toward greater health equity for all.

 

“These quarterly meetings are important opportunities to share information, but the real work is done in the days and weeks in between,” said Mercedes Witowsky, Executive Director of the New Jersey Council on Developmental Disabilities. “The progress the Legislature is making on advancing policies to increase access to healthcare services and their commitment to ensuring equitable care are testaments to the power of this Caucus and the collaboration of all the partners,” she said.

“About 25 percent of New Jersey adults have some type of disability, but there remains a disconnect in our state, and a discrepancy, on how those individuals are cared for across the healthcare landscape,” said Senate Majority Leader Ruiz (D-29). “It is important practitioners are trained and prepared to care for individuals with developmental disabilities in a manner that respects their autonomy and understand their unique communication and sensory needs. Today’s conversation is an important step towards ensuring equitable care for the IDD community in New Jersey.”

“Individuals with physical and developmental disabilities deserve the best healthcare New Jersey has to offer, and although we are making significant progress in achieving that goal, more work needs to be done,” said Senator Anthony Bucco (R-Boonton). “These individuals must contend with unique health care requirements. Simple things many of us take for granted, like a quick trip to the doctor or filling a prescription, can be difficult. Together with my colleagues in this caucus, we will work to improve access to health care and secure quality care for all disabled individuals, both children and adults.”

“This caucus gives us an opportunity to bring all the stakeholders to the table to design policies that ensure health care services and delivery in New Jersey are meeting the unique needs of individuals with disabilities. Recognizing this community is at greater risk for other conditions like obesity and depression makes accessible, coordinated and comprehensive health care even more critical,” Assemblywoman Aura Dunn (R-Morris) said. “Every meeting brings us closer to improving New Jersey for individuals with disabilities and I’m honored to be a part of it.” Assemblywoman Aura Dunn (R-25).

 

About the New Jersey Legislative Disability Caucus: The Caucus was formed December 1, 2020 and serves as a bipartisan forum within the New Jersey Legislature for lawmakers and their staff to consider the impact on the disability community when shaping ALL public policies in the Garden State. The Caucus is co-chaired by Senate Majority Leader Teresa Ruiz (D-29), Assembly Majority Leader Lou Greenwald (D-6), Senator Anthony Bucco (R-25) and Assemblywoman Aura Dunn (R-25). Participation in the Caucus is open to all legislators who agree to be champions for individuals with disabilities in New Jersey by meeting with them in their district offices; participate in the quarterly education forums; and promote policies to improve the lives of people with disabilities and their families. People with disabilities, their families and organizations that serve, support and advocate for people with disabilities in the Garden State serve as a resource for the NJ Legislative Disability Caucus. For more information about the Caucus and to get involved, visit https://njcdd.org/legislative-disability-caucus/.

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