Caring for adults with disabilities has long been a challenge for municipalities, as most participants age out of programs at age 21.
Middlesex County, using money from the American Rescue Plan, has found a solution.
Last week, county officials gave a grant of $250,000 to the Educational Services Commission of New Jersey to help fund its Adult Community Services program — a unique program that offers individuals 21 and over who have an intellectual or developmental disability an opportunity to strive for independence by helping participants develop their social, emotional and life skills.
Middlesex County Commissioner Director Ron Rios said the funding will have great impact.
“Along with the state of New Jersey, the county helps fund the Adult Community Services program at little to no cost,” he said. “This grant from Middlesex County helps ensure that participants and their families are not charged tuition.
“The funding will also help support the expansion of the program so it can include more students and families.”
The program currently has 35 participants, the majority of whom are from Middlesex County. Officials said the program does have openings. (Call 732-777-9860 for more information.)
Commissioner Chanelle Scott-McCullum said the program is one of the most impactful in the county.
“The Adult Community Services program is making a huge difference in our community,” she said. “Not only does this program create opportunities for participants to learn a variety of life and job-readiness skills; practice self-advocacy; and socialize with peers, it offers hands-on learning experiences that help bridge the gap between school and adulthood.
“And, unlike other programs, there is no age cap for the Adult Community Services program, which helps ensure everyone has access to options, assistance and opportunities regardless of their age. I’m proud to support such a worthwhile program.”
ESCNJ Schools Superintendent Mark Finkelstein said the funding is appreciated.
“We are tremendously appreciative of the Middlesex County board of commissioners for supporting our mission to change the lives of many young people in our community,” he said.
“Our Adult Community Services program serves as a critical gateway for young people with disabilities as they transition from public school supports into `real life.’ ACS is dedicated to creating opportunities for meaningful, long-term, competitive employment.
“We are so pleased that Commissioner Director Ronald Rios and Commissioner Chanelle Scott-McCullum took the time this week to tour the program at our Piscataway campus, speak with the instructors and the students and develop an even firmer understanding of the successes that are taking place at ESCNJ every day.”
Rios said the county is grateful for the efforts of the ESCNJ.
“On behalf of myself and my colleagues on the board of county commissioners, I just want to say how grateful we are to ESCNJ for creating and operating the Adult Community Services program — and to the participants and their families for being a part of the program,” he said.