NJ now has an official advocate for the developmentally disabled
New Jersey has a new resource for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The law creating the role of ombudsman was signed shortly before Chris Christie left office but Gov. Phil Murphy just appointed one this year.
The new ombudsman is former Ridgewood mayor Paul Aronsohn, who vows to serve as a public advocate for those with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families. He plans on helping these people get the supports and services they need and make sure that their voices are heard.
This is a cause that is very close to Aronsohn's heart. He says he worked on disability issues for at least 10 years and all three of Aronsohn's siblings suffer from a complex mix of disabilities and health challenges.
Aronsohn says there are tens of thousands of New Jersey residents who have intellectual and developmental disabilities. The good news, according to Aronsohn, is that New Jersey provides support and services. The bad news is that it's hard to navigate the complex system. He's sure there are thousands more who could use a little help.
Aronsohn is searching for ways to improve the system that will help other families down the road.
"That could be through better communication, different policies, different processes, looking for ways to make our system for supports and services more user friendly and more accessible," says Aronsohn.
He says he's been busy traveling, visiting with families, advocacy organizations, legislators and county officials to get the word out.
He says it's already overwhelming for families to deal with disabilities and provide for their loved ones, so if the state can make it easier for them to navigate the system to get the services they need, things would be better.