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More Improvements Sought At Hospital

Asbury Park Press
April 6, 2009
Jean Mikle

State officials say Ancora Psychiatric Hospital has become a better place over the past year, but even they admit that New Jersey's largest facility for the mentally ill still has a long way to go.

"We're not claiming victory at Ancora," said Greg Roberts, assistant director of the state's Office of Hospital Management. "2008 was a year of progress and stabilization, and it really sets the stage for continued progress. We still have a lot of work to do down there."

Kevin Martone, deputy commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Human Services, said Gov. Jon S. Corzine and state officials made a commitment last year to "change the culture" at Ancora following a series of violent incidents, patient deaths and questions about the quality of care at the Winslow Township hospital.

"The hospital is still on the path to recovery," Martone said.

A smaller patient population, better programming and new safety measures instituted within the past year have helped improve conditions at the hospital in Camden County, state officials say.

The improvements followed a time of turmoil at Ancora.

In a series of stories published early in 2008, the Asbury Park Press documented numerous problems at Ancora, including overcrowding, poorly trained staff and a violent atmosphere that included the assault of 19 psychiatrists from 2001 to last year.

Six patients died in a 20-month period.

Assembly Budget Panel Members on Importance of Public Hearings to Budget Process

Chairman Greenwald and members of the Assembly Budget Committe discuss the importance of public budget hearings.

Horse-Racing Industry Calls for Slots at Tracks

Press of Atlantic City
April 3, 2009
Myles Ma

TRENTON - A group representing the state's horse-racing and breeding industries presented a plan at an Assembly Budget Committee hearing Thursday they estimate would provide more than $1 billion in revenue to the state.

It's a plan the owners of Atlantic City casinos don't like, and, according to a recent poll, the majority of the state's residents don't either.

"We would hope that the Legislature would take a look at slots," said Thomas Luchento, president of the Standardbred Breeders & Owners Association of New Jersey.

He and other representatives from the racehorse industry asked the Assembly Budget Committee to consider allowing slot machines, or video lottery terminals, to be placed in racetracks, spurring a spirited debate at the all-day hearing that among other things addressed public safety, economic development, transportation, environmental, arts, history and cultural issues.

Lawmakers have until June 30 to modify and approve the proposed $29.8 billion state spending package.

Horse-racing interests proposed slots even though they say the casinos have already rejected the plan, despite an offer to allow the casinos to own the machines. Michael Gulotta, CEO of Deo Volente Farms, a racehorse breeding facility in Hunterdon County, estimated placing slot machines in racetracks would garner $1.4 billion in additional revenue to the state, while also making money for the casinos.

Greenwald Opens Assembly Budget Committee Public Hearings

With the beginning of a series of public hearings on Governor Corzine's introduced budget, Assembly Budget Committee Chairman Lou Greenwald gives an introductory statement, laying out the fundamental structure of the budget.

Op-Ed: Disabled Need More Care Options

Philadelphia Inquirer
March 22, 2009
By Lou Greenwald

Reggie Davis-Johnson is his own man. He has a job, lives with roommates, and spends time with friends. He goes to Wawa to get his favorite coffee whenever he likes. Most of all, he's happy.

It wasn't always this way. Born with mental disabilities, Reggie was institutionalized for 18 years. Though he received excellent medical care, he was unable to make many decisions for himself. Since moving to a shared-living home in Voorhees, Reggie has flourished. More independent, he can achieve his full potential as a member of the community.

Reggie's success story is heartwarming, but rare. Unfortunately, New Jersey hasn't been progressive in providing those most in need - those suffering from mental retardation, autism, cerebral palsy, and other developmental disabilities - with the same opportunity.

Nationwide, 140 major institutions for the developmentally disabled have closed in the last 40 years; New Jersey has not closed one in 10 years. New Jersey has the third-highest rate of institutionalization, behind only Louisiana and Mississippi. And the state spends one-third of its developmental disability budget caring for only 8 percent of developmentally disabled New Jerseyans.