A bid by Sen. Jennifer Beck to transfer a state department dedicated to investigating claims of abuse and neglect of developmentally disabled New Jerseyans to the Attorney General's Office has passed committee.
“The Special Response Unit in the Department of Human Services does invaluable work ensuring justice for our state’s most vulnerable residents that have been abused or neglected at the hands of their caretakers,” said Beck, of Red Bank.
“While the unit has been able to develop a strong, collaborative working relationship with law enforcement from its current home in the Department of Human Services, I believe that collaboration can be strengthened by relocating the unit to the Office of the Attorney General. Probing and prosecuting abuse of persons with disabilities is, at its core, a law enforcement function.”
Beck has submitted a resolution to the Senate, SCR 118, urging the Executive Branch to make such a transfer. It was approved Monday by the Senate Health, Human Services, and Senior Citizens Committee, and awaits further action by the Senate.
Beck's resolution is inspired by the death of Tara O’Leary, who was severely neglected and abused by her caretaker, Debra Sloan, in a skilled sponsor home for the developmentally disabled. O’Leary was eventually rescued, but died from complications resulting from the abusive treatment she received.
The Special Response Unit receives, prioritizes and investigates complaints by whistle-blowers working in programs and facilities regulated by the Department of Human Services that provide care, programming, and services to the disabled. It completes approximately 500 such investigations each year.