Before he left office, former Gov. Chris Christie made some bills into new laws, including several long-awaited initiatives aimed at New Jersey newborns, mothers, health providers and people with disabilities.
After an October state audit report revealed a number of workers hired without background checks to care for people with developmental disabilities had criminal records — including a convicted murderer — state legislators sought to close loopholes in the system.
One new law requires the state Department of Human Services to be responsible for the background checks, instead of the providers themselves.
“Anyone who is entrusted with caring for our most vulnerable residents should be subjected to the most stringent criminal background checks available. No exceptions,” state Sen. Kristin Corrado, R-Wayne, wrote in a statement. “We cannot allow one more person to fall through the cracks in the system.”
The law expands state and federal background check requirements and requires checks for people working in agencies that serve people with brain injuries, community care residences and any alternates for the community care residences.
The law adds to policies outlined in Stephen Komninos’ Law, which was passed in October, increasing protections for children and adults with developmental disabilities by working to stop potential abuse and neglect by caregivers.
The law was named in honor of a 22-year-old man who died in 2007 under the care of a private state-licensed facility in Cherry Hill for people with developmental disabilities.
Christie also signed a law to make it easier for new parents to provide health insurance to their newborns. The law extends the period in which newborns are covered under their parent’s health benefits coverage from 30 to 60 days after birth.
“There are medical conditions and developmental milestones which parents watch especially for in the first few months of a child’s life,” said Assemblywoman Nancy Pinkin, D-Middlesex. “Extending health benefits coverage for newborns ensures families their child’s health care costs will be covered if any problem does arise in the first few months of life.”
Young teenagers can now register as organ donors under a law Christie signed before he left office. It allows minors 14 and older to register as a donor with the state’s Motor Vehicle Commission with nondriver photo identification cards.
Another new law will make it possible for health agencies, organizations and other providers to get a single license to provide integrated care.
The state Department of Health will establish a single license for facilities that wish to provide mental and behavioral health services, physical health care and substance use disorder treatment. Providers currently have to obtain three individual licenses in two different departments.
The law comes after the state Division of Mental Health and Addiction Services were moved from the Department of Human Services into the Department of Health as part of a larger integration plan.
“Removing the stigma of mental health and substance use disorder treatment has been a core initiative of my administration, as has been streamlining bureaucracy and removing red tape,” Christie wrote in a statement. “The Department of Health will be the single nexus for health care, unifying physical, mental and behavioral health in New Jersey.”
Christie also signed into law, among others, bills that focus on requiring health coverage for certain screening and diagnostic testing for breast cancer and health benefits coverage for donated human breast milk under certain conditions, policies regarding opioid prescribing and overdose reversals.