New Law Adds Protections For Adults In New Jersey With Developmental Disabilities

The Stephen Komninos’ Law, enacted in 2017, went into effect on May 1, 2018. The new law is designed to protect individuals with developmental disabilities who receive services through the New Jersey Department of Human Services (DHS) from abuse, neglect, and exploitation by caregivers and others, to upgrade crimes committed against such individuals and to improve the quality of investigations of abuse, neglect, and exploitation of developmentally disabled individuals.

The bill is named after Stephen Komninos, a 22-year-old with intellectual disabilities who died in 2007. Between 2004 and 2007, Stephen suffered numerous incidents of abuse. Stephen was taken by an employee of the South Jersey group home where he lived on a trip to 7-Eleven, where he was left unsupervised against medical orders, choked while eating and died. Stephen’s story is outlined on a Facebook page devoted to the new law, which can be found at

The new law mandates the following actions:

  • The State must make two unannounced visits a year to each community-based residential group home and supervised apartment to determine whether individuals with developmental disabilities who are receiving services are at risk of, or are being subjected to, abuse, neglect, or exploitation by a caregiver;
  • Community residential and day program providers must contact a parent or guardian as soon as possible but not later than two hours following an injury or other critical incident, or eight hours if the extenuating services are explained in writing. A DHS representative must verify the level of severity of the incident within 48 hours of receiving an identified incident report;
  • Community residential and day program workers must undergo drug testing before they are hired, and face random testing if employers have reason to suspect drug use;
  • Parents or guardians must be notified that a DHS investigation has been initiated into allegations of abuse, neglect or exploitation, and State officials must invite parents to attend interviews of their children who are victims. DHS must also provide the parent or guardian with a summary of the investigation;
  • All staff are required to immediately report to the New Jersey Division of Developmental Disabilities all incidents or allegations of abuse, neglect and exploitation;
  • State officials must notify parents or guardians whether group home employees held responsible for injuries are placed on an offender registry;
  • A caregiver for an individual with a developmental disability and who subjects the individual with a developmental disability to abuse, neglect, or exploitation is guilty of a crime of the second degree.

According to a fiscal analysis by the Office of Legislative Services,  several provisions of the bill would significantly increase personnel and administrative expenditures at DHS. In that regard, DHS will be required to hire 200 additional employees at a cost of $24 million to comply with the new law.

There are 6,173 people who are living in group homes and 1,563 people living in supervised apartments who would stand to benefit from the law.

The Stephen Komninos’ Law can be found here –

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