On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Essex County, Docket No. MH-327-2010-J.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Skillman, J.A.D.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Before Judges Grall, Alvarez and Skillman.
The opinion of the court was delivered by SKILLMAN, J.A.D. (retired and temporarily assigned on recall).
The issue presented by this appeal is whether a trial court that has placed a developmentally disabled civil committee on "continued extension pending placement" (CEPP) status has the authority to order the Division of Developmental Disabilities (DDD) to fund that person's placement in a particular facility the court determines to be most appropriate. We conclude that the Legislature has delegated exclusive authority to the DDD to determine the appropriate placement of a developmentally disabled person eligible for its services. Therefore, a trial court that has placed a developmentally disabled person on CEPP status lacks authority to override the DDD's determination of an appropriate residential placement for that person.
U.C. is a developmentally disabled person with an autistic disorder who received in-home services from the DDD for a substantial number of years. In early 2010, shortly before his eighteenth birthday, U.C. engaged in serious aggressive behavior towards his mother, grandmother, the driver of his school bus van, and other people in the community. Consequently, on February 6, 2010, U.C.'s mother, I.C., had him admitted into the "crisis intervention services unit" at the Trinitas Regional Medical Center.*fn1
On February 22, 2010, I.C. wrote a letter to the DDD case worker assigned to U.C.'s case requesting his placement in a residential facility for the developmentally disabled. Her letter stated that U.C.'s aggression at home was "out of control" and that he "needs 24 hours of round the clock care in a residential home where he can live and go to school." I.C. suggested three facilities that would be appropriate for U.C., including Woods Services in Pennsylvania.
On March 4, 2010, the issue of U.C.'s need for continued commitment was brought before the trial court. Based upon a report submitted by the Trinitas medical staff in accordance with Rule 4:74-7(e), the court entered an order placing U.C. on CEPP status. This order also directed the DDD case worker assigned to U.C.'s case to appear at the next hearing to give testimony regarding the DDD's efforts to secure a residential placement for U.C.
On March 18, 2010, following a placement review hearing attended by the case worker, the trial court entered an order continuing U.C.'s CEPP status. This order also directed the case worker's supervisor to appear at the next placement review hearing.
On April 1, 2010, following a placement review hearing attended by the supervisor, the trial court entered another order continuing U.C.'s CEPP status. By that date, U.C. had turned eighteen and become an adult. This order also directed a higher level DDD supervisor to appear at the next hearing "to appear on ...