A project launched Monday morning to create an innovative residence facility for adults with developmental disabilities may prove to be a model for future living arrangements for many—as well as the keystone in a treatment and research corridor in Warren.
Mt. Bethel Village, at 130 Mt. Bethel Road (next to Mt. Bethel Vol. Fire Co.), will offer approximately 60,000 square feet of living, therapy and educational space for 41 adults with a variety of developmental disabilities. The project is being undertaken by Chelsea Senior Residences, and the business model can be thought of as analogous to a senior assisted living facility.
The center, expected to be open by September 2012, will have four "neighborhoods" to offer specialized care for residents who may include adults with cerebral palsy, neurological disorders or have autism spectrum disorders. The annual cost to live in the facility is estimated at $100,000 to $120,000.
And while the residence will offer one-to-one staffing for most of the care, residents will also be able to take advantage of nearby facilities, such as The Autism Medical Assessment and Treatment Center of New Jersey, and the Morris-Union Jointure Developmental Center for additional treatment and research.
In fact, for Warren resident Paul Abend, the residence completes a picture that will be "setting the standards of care" for the adult residents of Mt. Bethel Village.
Dr. Abend, medical director of the Autism Medical Assessment and Treatment Center, envisioned the possibilities of combining the services already in place in Warren with a facility like the Chelsea several years ago—then began working on finding like-minded people to bring it to fruition.
When he met Chelsea CEO Herbert Helfrich, he found the partner needed to develop the project.
"All these people were coming in with their family members and said something like this was needed for adults with autism," Helfrich said. He added his company has already received more than 200 inquiries about Mt. Bethel Village from rumors about the project, which he said proves its need.
"It's important for people to know about it and to ultimately support it," Helfrich said.
Monday's groundbreaking was attended by local representatives, including Mayor Gary DiNardo and Deputy Mayor Carolann Garafola, and about a dozen parents of developmentally disabled adults who were unanimous in their support for such a facility—even if their own children would not qualify to be residents for medical or financial reasons.
"The thing with autism is, it's a lifetime," Basking Ridge resident Brian Kerwin said. He added because of the range of impacts autism can have, specialized care is also necessary—even though many don't understand that. "If you have cancer, OK—what kind of cancer. If you have autism, OK—you have autism."
But while research and studies identify better treatment and educational opportunities for many with autism, the state lacks residential facilities for adults capable of semi-autonomous living.
"We've got thousands of residents who really have no place to live," he added.
Dr. Abend noted facilities such as Mt. Bethel Village will be increasingly important as the nearly 100,000 children in New Jersey diagnosed with autism "age out" of existing facilities. He also envisions Mt. Bethel Village and the other nearby facilities as becoming a key center for training doctors and nurses in the treatment and care of adults with various developmental disabilities.
Construction of Mt. Bethel Village is being financed by Two River Community Bank.