N.J. Laws Aimed At Improving Quality Of Life Including New Gun Law, Take Effect Today

handgunGot your New Year’s resolutions? New Jersey has its list — a collection of laws aimed at improving the state’s quality of life by tackling gun violence, insurance coverage for autism and transparency at psychiatric hospitals. Much of the legislation is geared toward helping people who suffer from a variety of ailments. Students with diabetes will be able to spend more time in the classroom than in the nurse’s office. Citizens worried about safety at state-run psychiatric hospitals will be able to find out the number of assaults and deaths at each.

Starting today, unless you’re a legitimate gun dealer, state law now prohibits you from buying more than one handgun every 30 days. That applies to individuals, not dealers or collectors, and it doesn’t place restrictions on the number of rifles or shotguns a person can buy with a firearms purchaser identification card.

New Jersey becomes the fourth state to enact such legislation, motivated by the police chiefs and mayor of Jersey City who approached Assemblywoman Joan Quigley (D-Hudson), one of the primary sponsors of the bill. She received mail from around the country denouncing the measure.

“All of the out-of-state mail was opposing the bill and telling me that I was stupid, that I hated guns, and that I hated gun owners,” she said.

Bryan Miller, executive director of Ceasefire NJ said he believes the law will reduce gun violence.

“By limiting individuals to the purchase of no more than one handgun in 30 days, you dramatically reduce the ability of traffickers to make a profit,” he said.

Rachel Parsons, a spokeswoman for the National Rifle Association said there is no evidence that gun rationing of any kind reduces crime, and the laws need to be geared toward criminals, not people who obtain guns lawfully.

Later this month, parents of students with diabetes will be able to work with their doctors to devise an “individualized emergency health care plan” that includes provisions for youngsters to manage the disease themselves.

The legislation, sponsored by Assemblywoman Charlotte Vandervalk (R-Bergen), includes good Samaritan language to give school officials immunity from liability.

Over the years, Vandervalk said, some students hid their efforts to keep their insulin levels in check.

“Sometimes, when the kids had to give themselves a shot, their friends would circle around them so no one would see it,” Vandervalk said. “You don’t want to have a situation like that.”

Another law will help ease the burden of families who struggle to pay for the screening and therapeutic treatment of autism and other developmental disabilities. Next month, insurers will be required to provide coverage for expenses incurred for medically necessary occupational therapy, physical therapy and speech therapy as prescribed through a treatment plan, the law says.

That will end years of discrimination by including the treatment of autism under the umbrella of health care insurance, said Suzanne Buchanan, clinical director for Autism New Jersey.

Propelled by a series of problems at Ancora Psychiatric Hospital in Winslow Township, Camden County, Assemblywoman Sheila Oliver (D-Essex) pushed for a law that will require the state Department of Human Services to report physical assaults and deaths at state psychiatric hospitals on its website.

For each hospital, the department will list the number of major and moderate injuries among patients, between patients and staff members and the number of unexpected deaths. None of the patients or staff members will be identified.

The department also is required to notify the state’s public advocate within 24 hours after an unexpected death.

“We learned from members of the families that incidents were very shrouded and covered,” said Oliver, who will be the next Assembly speaker.

“The belief is that the more light that’s shown on our state hospitals, the better the patient care will be,” said Phillip Lubitz, advocacy director for the New Jersey chapter of National Alliance for Mental Illness.

Following are some of the state laws set to take effect this year:

Drug label requirements: Labels on prescription drugs must include both generic and brand names of the drug when a generic drug is dispensed. — (A2030) Effective Jan. 31.

Tags on fur clothing: People selling any clothing with fur must attach a tag informing customers of the animals’ name and the country from which the fur was imported. — (A2653) Effective March 1.

Prescription supplies: Instead of being forced to renew their prescriptions every 30 days, patients will be able to receive up to a 90-day supply of certain drugs such as Ritalin. — (A3799) Effective March 1.

Driver safety: People with provisional driver’s licenses will be required to place two reflective decals on their cars to identify themselves as young drivers. — (A3069) Effective May 1.

Donations: Residents will be able to direct a portion of their tax refund to community food pantries or spaying and neutering dogs and cats. — (A2513/S2430) Effective January 1. Star Ledger.

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