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August 3, 2022

Few remain at state’s most troubled nursing home

Lilo Stainton, NJ Spotlight News

Nearly 340 residents — a mix of elderly and younger people, many poor and disabled by brain injuries, addiction or other conditions — have already been resettled to other New Jersey long-term care facilities.

That is no surprise to Michael Brower, legal director for Disability Rights New Jersey, an advocacy group that has been tracking the process at the Sussex County facility closely. The group has pushed state officials and care managers to ensure they are respecting Woodland residents’ wishes and identifying housing options in the community, if appropriate.

“We saw that trend coming, we were a little concerned about it,” Brower said. “We don’t want people to be re-warehoused and moved from one problematic nursing home to another maybe less-problematic nursing home, but then forgotten about.”

Brower said state officials and care managers with the insurance companies that provide the Medicaid plans have pledged to continue working with residents resettled from Woodland to ensure they are in the right home environment, with as few restrictions as possible. “We want to make sure that actually happens.”

June 2, 2022

Deadline looms to move nursing home residents

Lilo Stainton, NJ Spotlight News

What this means for Woodland’s residents is the primary concern for advocates like Disability Rights New Jersey, which has been tracking the nursing home’s operation for several years. The organization’s staff said it is particularly concerned about the nearly 200 residents with serious mental health issues, traumatic brain injuries or other disabilities, who are kept in a locked, third-floor unit.

“The burning question is, this is a really short timeframe and there are a lot of people there and there’s going to be a lot of work to get done if the intention is for the facility to close,” said Michael Brower, DRNJ’s legal director. A dedicated team of case managers is needed to meet with each resident to discuss their wishes and options, assess what other housing is appropriate and plan the actual move, he explained.

May 26, 2022

NJ moves to seize control of troubled nursing home

Lilo Stainton, NJ Spotlight News

Michael Brower, the legal director for Disability Rights New Jersey, said his team will be following this transfer process closely. The nonprofit organization, legally designated as an advocate for New Jerseyans with disabilities, has been monitoring activity at Woodland for several years and launched a formal investigation this winter. The disability rights organization is particularly concerned about the nearly 200 residents of a locked third-floor unit who have mental health issues, traumatic brain injuries or other disabilities, Brower said, and who have specific needs that few programs can meet. He is also watching to make sure residents who don’t want to move aren’t forced out prematurely.

“One of the problems is there aren’t a lot of options for people who need intense support and services,” Brower said. Some of these residents may not require nursing-home level care, he said, but have been warehoused at Woodland for lack of better options, like group homes or independent, but supported, life in an apartment. “I don’t know if there’s a great amount of community capacity out there,” he said. “That’s going to be very difficult for the transfers.”

April 5, 2022

‘We weren’t loud enough’: Howell parents preach advocacy after death of son with autism

Jerry Carino, Asbury Park Press

Be an aggressive, firm advocate for your disabled child, particularly for disabled adults,” dad Glenn Cantor said. “You really have to work and be insistent. If they can’t speak for themselves, they need people to speak for them.”


The did not know, until it was too late, how to most effectively voice their concerns about Danny’s health to New Jersey’s Division of Developmental Disabilities.


“The DDD system, the checks and balances, is actually pretty robust,” said Jill Hoegel, Director of Investigations and Monitoring at Disability Rights New Jersey, the state’s designated protection and advocacy agency under federal law.

March 11, 2022

Judge grants disability advocates access to NJ nursing home residents to investigate abuse, neglect

Susan K. Livio, NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

Ted Sherman, NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

Based on the health department’s findings, “Disability Rights NJ determined there was probable cause to suspect that all residents at Woodland have been subject to ongoing abuse, neglect, and rights violations,” according to Tuesday’s court filing.


After repeated visits, Disability Rights Executive Director Gwen Orlowski concluded the third floor of the Woodland facility operates like an “unlicensed psychiatric hospital,” where nearly 200 residents with mental illness and developmental disabilities live on a locked floor.

March 10, 2022

Advocates were berated, bullied when they tried to investigate alleged nursing home abuse, says lawsuit

Susan K. Livio, NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

Ted Sherman, NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

Disability Rights has been sending staff periodically to Woodland since Easter weekend in April 2020, after police discovered a makeshift morgue overflowing with the bodies of residents who had died from COVID-19, according to the lawsuit, filed jointly by the Dann Law Firm in North Brunswick.


The nonprofit agency renewed its efforts after the Health Department’s recent inspection revealed “detailed instances of abuse and neglect.” The state found no efforts had been made to resuscitate or even call 911 for a 55-year-old resident whose heart stopped on New Year’s Day. One aide left a resident with bed sores to lie in feces overnight, and faced no discipline, according to the inspection report obtained by NJ Advance Media.


Orlowski said her team believes many residents on the third floor do not require nursing home care but wound up there because there is a shortage of supervised apartments or other community housing options for people with mental illness and developmental disabilities. She has asked the Murphy administration to intervene while Disability Rights conducts its investigation.

April 29, 2021

Preventing Online Sexual Victimization of People with Developmental Disabilities

All people, including people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD), are sexual beings and often seek close, intimate relationships. People with IDD have a right to good sexual health and well-being, and this right extends to their online community. While access to the internet and social media can open up the possibilities of having an extended community and potentially larger circle of support, there’s also concern about how easily victimization can happen too.

We already know that people in the IDD community experience sexual violence at higher rates than the general population. One article cites data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics that found people with intellectual disabilities experience sexual violence at seven times the rate of those without disabilities. Another data source reveals that 60% of people with IDD who are in romantic relationships have experienced interpersonal violence or abuse, and 40% of them did not seek assistance.

April 17, 2021

NJ’s lockdown on programs for disabled people must end now, families say.

Aided by vaccines, mandatory mask-wearing and social distancing, the Murphy administration this year has gradually relaxed restrictions on nursing homes visits, attendance at weddings and sporting events and dining capacity at restaurants.

But there is one segment of the population that is still waiting for a reprieve from the pandemic-driven lockdown: the 12,000 people who live with developmental and intellectual disabilities who used to spend as many as 40 hours a week learning and socializing with their peers at what are called day programs.

Gwen Orlowski, executive director for Disability Rights New Jersey, a federally funded legal advocacy group, said Friday many families have contacted her organization seeking help. Disability Rights agrees families have a valid point. “We recognize that there are public health concerns to reopening day programs, and we also recognize that the continued closure of congregate day programming is taking a toll on (those) who need those services and their families or caretakers who are trying to fill the gaps during the pandemic,” Orlowski said.