Age of Eligibility for Special Education and Related Services (2021): S.3434 – On Wednesday, June 16, 2021, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed into law a bill that extends special education services for students poised to “age out” of the system in the next three years.
Under current state law, school districts must provide students with disabilities certain services, including things like community service, life skills and job training, up to age 21. Due to the pandemic, many students this year were unable to receive the full transitional services they are owed by the state.
The Governor indicated that students who otherwise would have aged out over the span of the three school years will be offered an additional year. Determinations will be made at local level by district IEP teams, including parents/guardians and students themselves. Federal American Rescue Plan (ARP) funds will used to cover the approximate cost of $600 million for this extension. But according to the Governor, “This is one of those things where we take the step regardless of the price tag because it is absolutely, without question and hesitation, the right thing to do.”
The new law will extend services to students who turn 21 during the 2020-21, 2021-22 and 2022-23 school years to the 2021-22, 2022-23 and 2023-24 school years, respectively.
NJSHA supported this legislation and recently sent the Governor a letter of support. NJSHA would also like to thank the sponsors of the bill (NJ S3434 (20R) / NJ A5366 (20R)), Senator Dawn Addiego (D-Burlington) and Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen).
Telehealth/Medicine During COVID-19 (2020): A.3860, Pinkin (D-Middlesex) / S.2289, Vitale (D-Middlesex) – Establishes certain requirements to use telemedicine and telehealth to respond to coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). This bill does a few things. It allows a licensed practitioner to provide and bill for telehealth even if rules for their particular practice have not yet been adopted. (Note: this is very important for speech and audiology – while the Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology Licensing Committee proposed the telepractice rules for the two professions – and NJSHA commented on them – they have not been formally adopted). The bill also allows an out of state provider to provide telehealth but only related to testing and treatment of COVID-19 unless the provider had a previous relationship with the patient. Finally, the bill allows the DOH to relax HIPAA requirements. This bill was signed into law on March 19, 2020. P.L. 2020, c. 3
A.3843, McKeon (D-Essex) / S.2283, Vitale (D-Middlesex) – Requires health insurance and Medicaid coverage for testing of coronavirus disease 2019 and for telemedicine and telehealth during the coronavirus disease 2019 state of emergency. As originally introduced, this bill only required coverage of the virus testing, but telehealth was added on the assembly floor on Monday, March 16th. The bill states that the coverage of telehealth shall be in accordance with the provisions of P.L. 2017, c. 117, legislation that governs telemedicine/telehealth in the state. NJSHA was involved in the process that led to creation of that law, including the explicit inclusion of audiologists and speech-language pathologists. Please note that self-funded plans governed by ERISA are not subject to this law. ERISA is under federal law and it cannot be preempted by state law. This bill was signed into law on March 20, 2020. P.L. 2020, c. 7.
Legislation that Amends the 180-day Rule for In-Person Educational Instruction (2020): The Legislature passed this bill at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic after schools shut down. This bill permitted the use of virtual or remote instruction to meet minimum 180-day school year requirement under certain circumstances. Speech-language services were included in the bill for public schools from the beginning. In the final bill, other therapies (OT, PT) were included, as were Approved Private Schools for Students with Disabilities (APSSDs). The bill was signed into law on April 14, 2020. P.L. 2020, c. 27.
Protections Incorporated into Behavior Analyst Licensing Bill (2019): Autism NJ was the driving force behind the effort to pass legislation requiring licensure of behavior analysts in the state. NJSHA worked with Senator Loretta Weinberg (D-Bergen), the sponsor of S.3099 in the upper house, to secure amendments to protect the practices of speech-language pathology and audiology in the legislation. The bill now specifically clarifies, “the practice of behavior analysis does not include diagnosis of speech language, hearing, and other communication and swallowing disorders” and “nothing in this act shall be construed to apply to the practice, activities and services of qualified members of other professions, including speech-language pathologists or audiologists.” Work on this legislation has opened the door for a collaborative relationship between NJSHA and Autism NJ. Governor Murphy signed the bill into law on January 13, 2020 (P.L.2019, c.337).
Music Therapist Licensure (2019): NJSHA secured amendments to this legislation to protect the scope of practice of speech and audiology practitioners. These include mandating collaboration with a patient’s SLP or audiologist when providing services to patients with speech or swallowing disorders and prohibiting a music therapist from replacing SLSs or SLPs when providing educational or rehabilitation services. As introduced, the bill states that the practice of music therapy does not include the diagnosis of any physical, mental or communication disorder. The bill contains all of NJSHA’s amendments to protect the practices of speech-language therapy. Music therapists will be governed under a new “Board of Creative Arts and Activities Therapies.” There will be five professions under that Board: Dance Movement; Drama Therapy; Art Therapy; (these three are already in statute); Recreational Therapy; and Music Therapy. The Board shall consist of: two dance movement therapists; two drama therapists; two art therapists; two recreational therapists; and two music therapists. This bill was signed by Governor Murphy on Tuesday, January 21, 2020 (P.L.2019, c.471).
Single Licensure for Audiologists (2019): Signed by Governor Murphy in March 2019, this new law permits certain audiologists to dispense and fit hearing aids by virtue of their audiology license, without requiring a separate hearing aid dispensing license. NJSHA’s top legislative priority for the past several years, the bill received unanimous approval by two legislative committees and by the full Senate and Assembly. In addition to our prime sponsors, Senator Patrick Diegnan (D-Middlesex) and Assemblywoman Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen), nine legislators added their names to the legislation as co-sponsors. Single Licensure for Audiologists (2019) P.L. 2019, c. 41
Aphasia Task Force (2019): NJSHA was integral in securing the appointment of THREE NJSHA members (Linda Tucker, Mary Jo SantoPietro and Janice Dibling) to the 13-member Mike Adler Aphasia Task Force created by legislation passed last session (P.L. 2017, c. 342). This further demonstrates our value and involvement in every level of state policymaking. Aphasia Task Force (2019)
Working Group on Deaf Education (2019): NJSHA was integral in securing critical amendments to ensure that the Working Group has a balanced composition and parents and students have access to the supports and services that they need, in their chosen modality, whether that be American Sign Language or Listening and Spoken Language. We are in the process of recommending names of individuals, including SLPS and audiologists, to serve on this entity which is being housed in the DOE. Working Group on Deaf Education (2019)
Deaf Students Bill of Rights (2019): NJSHA worked with the sponsors of the bill to ensure that the protections and rights afforded to deaf and hard-of-hearing students in this legislation were meaningful and appropriate. This was signed into law 8/5/2019 (P.L.2019, c.204). Deaf Students Bill of Rights (2019)
Telemedicine/Tele-practice (2018): This law authorizes health care practitioners, including SLPs, to provide health care services via telemedicine/practice and allows for insurance reimbursement. NJSHA created a Task Force on this legislation, led by Robynne Kratchman and Donna Spillman Kennedy. They met with sponsors and staff and were consulted on proposed amendments as the legislation evolved. Among the amendments proposed by NJSHA which were accepted into the final version of the law, is a mandate that the practitioner be licensed in New Jersey. Telemedicine/Tele-practice (2017) P.L. 2017, c 117
Hearing Impairment Task Force (2017): Establishes “NJ Hearing Impairment Task Force.” The bill’s prime sponsor, Senator Patrick Diegnan (D-Middlesex) sought NJSHA’s input as he went through the process of drafting the bill. NJSHA has a designated representative on the Task Force, and Olivia VanWagner has been appointed by the Governor’s Office to fill this position. Hearing Impairment Task Force (2017) P.L. 2017, c. 255
Dyslexia Legislation (2009-2013): NJSHA has worked on many pieces of legislation to improve the education of children with dyslexia, including The New Jersey Reading Disabilities Task Force (P.L. 2009, c. 228): NJSHA successfully amended this legislation to include an individual recommended by NJSHA to the 13-member entity. Ultimately, Karen Kimberlin was named to the Task Force by Governor Christie and was instrumental in shaping their recommendations including several subsequent pieces of legislation (see below).
- Requires screening of students for dyslexia (P.L. 2013, c. 210)
- Requires that the DOE provide continuing education opportunities for certain educators, including speech-language specialists (P.L. 2013, c. 105)
- Directs DOE to insert International Dyslexia Association definition of dyslexia into regulations (P.L. 2013, c. 131)
Mandated Health Benefits Coverage for Therapies for Individuals with Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities (2009): Speech therapy was included in this legislation which former Speaker Joe Roberts considered one of his proudest legacies. NJSHA played a key role in shaping this law, as language from a separate bill, initiated by NJSHA, was merged into the final piece of legislation: “Coverage shall not be denied on the basis that the treatment is not restorative.” This bill ensures coverage of children with speech language deficits due to developmental disabilities, not only those with autism. NJSHA members were invited to the August 13, 2009 bill signing by then-Governor Jon Corzine. Mandated Health Benefits Coverage for Therapies for Individuals with Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities (2009) P.L. 2009, c. 115
Grace’s Law (2008): This bill requires insurance coverage for medically necessary expenses incurred in the purchase of a hearing aid for covered children 15 years of age or younger. Acting Governor Richard Codey publicly thanked NJSHA for the organization’s support at the bill signing. Grace’s Law (2008) P.L. 2008 c. 126
School-Based Speech-Language Pathology Services During Emergency Situations: A Guide for Practitioners and Districts (July 2020): NJSHA was invited to provide to the New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE) recommendations and input regarding best practices when responding to emergency school closures under a temporary rule modification to allow the use of teletherapy.
This detailed document provides guidance for school-based SLSs and Districts regarding telepractice during emergency school closures, including technical needs of SLSs and students; therapy and assessment; and reopening /recovery suggestions for personal and environmental health.
New Jersey Tiered System of Supports (NJTSS) (2015): NJTSS is a framework of academic and behavioral supports and interventions to improve student achievement, based on the core components of multi-tiered systems of supports (MTSS) and the three-tier prevention logic of Response to Intervention (RTI). With a foundation of strong district and school leadership, a positive school culture and climate, and family and community engagement, NJTSS builds upon intervention and referral services (I&RS) and gives schools a structure to meet the academic, behavioral, health, enrichment, and social-emotional needs of all students. NJTSS
Dyslexia Handbook (2015): The purpose of The New Jersey Dyslexia Handbook: A Guide to Early Literacy Development & Reading Struggles is to provide information to educators, students, families, and community members about dyslexia, early literacy development, and the best practices for identification, instruction, and accommodation of students who have reading difficulties. Dyslexia Handbook
Student Growth Objectives for School based SLPs: SGOs are long-term academic goals for groups of students set by teachers/SLSs in consultation with their supervisors.
New Jersey Framework for the Evaluation of Speech-Language Specialists (2013): Introduction to the NJSHA-recommended New Jersey Framework for the Evaluation of Speech-Language Specialists. Evidence of Effectiveness for the New Jersey Framework for the Evaluation of Speech-Language Specialists
Elimination of Emergency Certification (2013): After years of meeting with staff at the Department of Education (DOE) and the Governor’s office and delivering oral and written testimony before the Board of Education (BOE), NJSHA was finally successful in seeing the elimination of the use of emergency certification for speech-language specialists working in schools. It was replaced with Certificate of Eligibility (CE) which mandates that the holder be matriculated in a master’s degree program in speech-language pathology/communications disorders (versus enrolled – the wording in the old emergency which NJSHA long fought to change. Elimination of Emergency Certification (2013)
- The Aphasia Task Force: Linda M. Tucker-Simpson, Janice Dibling, Dr. Mary Jo Santo Pietro
- Hearing Impairment Task Force: Olivia VanWagner
- The Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology Advisory Committee: Janet Koehnke and Martin Shulman
- NJSHA was a stakeholder on New Jersey Tiered System of Supports 2016-2019: School Affairs Representatives – Sue Goldman and Mary Faella
- New Jersey Dyslexia Task Force (2014-2017): Karen T. Kimberlin
Learn more about state issues and get involved by contacting the legislative chair at firstname.lastname@example.org.