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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.