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PROTECT THE DEVELOPMENTALLY DISABLED LIKE DANIELLE

Carteret Woman's Tragedy Spurs Federal Legislation Drive

Danielle Gruskowski

Home News Tribune Online 06/21/05
By REVA McEACHERN, STAFF WRITER

CARTERET — In an effort to ensure the safety of the developmentally disabled and people with traumatic brain injury, Rep. Rush Holt, D-12th Dist., and Rep. Robert Menendez, D-13th Dist., along with other local elected officials and community advocates are pushing for a federal version of New Jersey's Danielle's Law.

 "I know Danielle is smiling because her friends will have an added measure of protection that she was not afforded," said Danielle's mother, Diane Gruskowski. "If that was her purpose here she did a job well done."

Gruskowski, who lived in Carteret, suffered from Rett Syndrome — a neurological disorder that affects motor movement and the ability to communicate.

In November 2002, she experienced multiple symptoms that indicated a need for emergency attention, yet her caretakers at Spectrum For Living — a group home in Edison — neglected to seek attention until the next day, and Gruskowski died at a local hospital. She was 32.

"She was gasping for air for over 12 hours," her mother said. "I think for anybody — a child in school or anyplace you could be — somebody would have called for help. It seems that because she is disabled, it wasn't as important."

At a press conference in Carteret yesterday, Gruskowski's memory was invoked by her mother in a speech expressing gratitude and commitment to the protection of people like Danielle "who are voiceless and helpless," through Danielle's Law.

Danielle's Law — a state law that requires direct-care staff who are providing health-related services to people with developmental disabilities or traumatic brain injury to call 911 for assistance anytime one of their patients experiences a life-threatening emergency — was signed in 2003 by former Gov. James McGreevey after lobbying by the Gruskowski family and local representatives.

Members of the Alliance to Stop Abuse and Neglect, of which Danielle's mother is a member, were also present yesterday. The organization is spearheading legislation to protect the rights of those who "do not have a voice to protect their own rights," and aims to ensure all children and adults with disabilities receive the same protections from abuse and neglect enjoyed by nondisabled citizens, according to the group's Web site.

The Web site highlights instances of neglect in disabled and/or brain-injured residents at facilities around New Jersey, including Matthew Goodman — a 14-year-old patient who was subjected to physical and chemical restraint at Bancroft Neurohealth, Haddonfield — who like Danielle Gruskowski, died as a result of his caretakers' failure to call 911 in a life-threatening situation.

For more information on Danielle's Law, visit www.thefamilyalliance.net

Robin Turner www.thefamilyalliance.net

by Robin on August 15 at 1:28 AM EST

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