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Hillsborough Group Home Part of Statewide Effort

Residents dubious of SERV Achievement Center's proposed group home to serve autistic residents.

If approved by the Planning Board, a Sherwood Close residence will become home to four low-functioning autistic residents some of whom are currently living in one of the state development centers slated for closing.

The home, planned by Ewing-based SERV Achievement Centers, is part of a move by the administration of Gov. Chris Christie to close the centers and move those living in them into smaller group homes, where treatment is more individualized.

According to Keith Hamilton, SERV's vice-president of community relations, about 2,700 individuals in the state centers will be placed in group homes in the coming years.

"If you divide that by four, that's how many group homes you need," Hamilton said.

The Hillsborough project encountered questioning neighbors, some of whom attended the Township Committee's Dec. 11 meeting to express their concerns about the home—sometimes echoing the concerns of residents who lived near the proposed drug rehabilitation center on Route 206 (which has been withdrawn).  

The residents asked about the safety of neighbors, and the possibility of residents coming and going, but Hamilton stressed the residents, as people with a form of developmental disability and not an illness, tend not to be very mobile. 

"Most people who are developmentally disabled tend to be disabled their entire lives, so we have some people with us for very long times," he told the residents at the meeting.

He stressed the residents are not mentally ill, but developmentally disabled. When asked about residents who may be bi-polar, schizophrenic or depressed, he said, "These are diseases of the mental health types—these folks would not be in our program."

Also, Township Committeeman Frank DelCore pointed out the Planning Board approval only authorizes developmentally disabled residents.

In an interview after the meeting, Hamilton said the facility will be licensed wtih the state's Department of Developmental Disabilities, so only residents with such disabilities will be permitted. 

In part, the group home is aimed at helping to alleviate the growing population of autistic adults, people unable to function independently but too old for schools or other existing facilities.

Hamilton said nearly 2,000 developmentally disabled people in New Jersey are on waiting lists for care, in addition to those in the centers. 

The Hillsborough home could accept residents from among the 600 autistic residents at the state centers, such as the Green Brook Regional Center, as well as from the local population of people on the waiting lists.

"We'll look for folks who live in Somerset County first," Hamiliton said.

Truthsayer January 11, 2013 at 01:40 AM
I think I have spent enough time feeding the trolls
sammy January 11, 2013 at 06:37 PM
Typical response from a bully. Pure and simple. Clownish , but a bully nonetheless
S.G. January 11, 2013 at 08:23 PM
Sammy, a truly confusing comment...but there was only one troll here and he has apparently left. In the end it may be a good thing as years ago I remember hearing about there being 12-14 group homes in Hillsborough which would only upset truth.
DoogieRN April 02, 2013 at 05:27 PM
Life next to 2 group homes: Some may choose to call me a NIMBY and discard my post but as someone who purchased a large home in the country, I did NOT sign up to live in a compound. I live in a farming community and my only 2 neighbors sold out to a for-profit group home company. The residents have not been the problem unless the sounds of crying, screaming and being cursed at by the ever changing employrees bother you or your young children. Single family homes are also no stranger to 30-40-50 vehicles coming and going 24 hours a day. Some are staff members, some are visitors of the clients but staff also recieve there share of visitations. Employees yelling back and forth between homes, cars, yards and using foul and abusive language. Then there is the ever present construction as the homes are enlarged for further profits. Don't believe the "you will rarely see them because they go to a program during the day" lies as there is ALWAYS vehicles coming and going 24/7. My family has also witnessed residents running down the state highway as well as a staff member riding ON TOP of a SUV. We are not sure what tobacco product smells like skunk urine but it can be found coming from the "speciality group homes next to and behind me
DoogieRN April 02, 2013 at 05:38 PM
I agree that people need a place to live and I'm sympathetic to the need but with low pay and little if any supervision and lack of oversite by the governmernt, you get what you pay for. Ask youself this "Do I want my family member's health and safety entrusted to the LOWEST bidder?" To those who call us NIMBYS, Walk an acre in my shoes and experience life in the compond that surrounds my family.

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