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T.R., Parent and Guardian of J.R. v. New Jersey Division of Developmental Disabilities

Decided: June 19, 1991.


On appeal from the Division of Developmental Disabilities.

Judges Deighan, Baime and A. M. Stein. The opinion of the Court was delivered by A.m. Stein, J.A.D.


J.R. appeals the order of the Division of Developmental Disabilities rendering him ineligible for services under the

Developmental Disabilities Act, N.J.S.A. 30:6D-23 et seq. Following an extensive hearing, the Administrative Law Judge concluded that J.R. was "precisely the type of person who meets the statutory definition of a developmentally disabled person . . . and is eligible for [the Division's] services." The Division Director rejected the ALJ's decision. We reverse. The ALJ's findings and conclusions are supported by substantial credible evidence in the record. The Director's are not.

J.R. is thirty years old. His parents are dead. His mother died in March 1989. T.R., his father, died while this appeal was pending. Since February 1982 he has resided at Devereux Foundations Residential Program in Devon, Pennsylvania. His father's medical insurance program paid for the Devereux placement until October 1988 when coverage for J.R.'s care was exhausted. In anticipation of coverage expiration, T.R. attempted in late 1987 to have J.R. declared eligible for services as a developmentally disabled person. The Division rejected the application on July 29, 1988.

The ALJ made the following uncontradicted factual findings:

T.J.R., J.'s father, testified that J. has been seriously disabled all of his life and during his initial attendance at school was diagnosed as autistic-schizophrenic, among other diagnoses. According to Julie Martin Allen, a social worker employed by respondent, J., during his school years, was primarily classified as emotionally disturbed and had had various diagnoses, including autism, schizophrenia and avoidant personality. She found that J. had attended several different school settings and over the years his behavior had worsened. He was at times aggressive and paranoid and in 1980 due to his worsened behavior his family was unable to handle him and a residential placement was necessary. His I.Q. scores have varied over the years between 64 and 88. She further found that when J. was five years old a psychologist diagnosed him as autistic and found J. to be in need of multi-disciplinary services. She further observed that when administered the [Clinical Adaptive Behaviors Inventory] by respondent on March 29, 1988, he was found to have been "substantially functionally limited in three areas (Self-Direction, Capacity for Independent Living and Learning) and possibly functionally limited in one other area."

Ann Marie Giraldi, social service coordinator of Edward French Center at Devereux, testified that she works with J., sees him every day and the only psychiatric services rendered him consist of a once-a-month examination by a

psychiatrist and a concomitant prescription for medication. She found J. to have a borderline to average I.Q., and developmental and psychiatric disabilities. She testified that J. relates to her as a child, that he receives residential supervision and workshop supervision constantly. She further testified that J. needs constant reassurance and direction. He suffers temper tantrums and that it was her experience that respondent has heretofore funded a client with a disability similar to that of J.

Dr. Karen Haber, staff psychologist at Devereux, testified that she administers therapy to J. once a week for 45 minutes and has been doing so for approximately one year. She observed that J. functions at a very limited level with constant application of support systems. She further testified that J.'s condition is incurable and chronic.

N.J.S.A. 30:6D-25b provides:

"Development disability" means a severe, chronic disability of a person which: (1) is attributable to a mental or physical impairment or combination of mental or physical impairments; (2) is manifest before age 22; (3) is likely to continue indefinitely; (4) results in substantial functional limitations in three or more of the following areas of major life activity, that is, self-care, receptive and expressive language, learning, mobility, self-direction and capacity for independent living or economic self-sufficiency; and (5) reflects the need for a combination and sequence of special interdisciplinary or generic care, treatment or other services which are of lifelong or extended duration and are individually planned and coordinated. Developmental disability ...

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