The essential mission of CHLP is to provide legal and advocacy services to New Jersey residents with disabilities. We serve consumers of mental health services, people with physical disabilities, HIV/AIDS, developmental disabilities, and visual impairments. Our attorneys and advocates represent clients in matters involving Social Security benefits, welfare, food stamps, and other entitlements; housing habitability and landlord-tenant disputes; foreclosure defense; consumer protection and debt collection; child support and domestic violence; Medicaid, Medicare, and other health insurance issues. In FY2009, CHLP provided assistance to over 5,000 people through representation and brief service. In addition to these services, CHLP operates several unique programs:
Civil Rights and Fair Housing Litigation
Community Health Law Project is a leader in the effort to enforce state and federal fair housing laws that govern barrier-free accessibility. Litigation initiated by CHLP has resulted in the construction of over 3,000 accessible apartments and condominium units in New Jersey and the repeal of numerous discriminatory municipal zoning ordinances. In 1996, one such lawsuit resulted in the repeal of exclusionary zoning ordinances that prevented community residences from operating in areas zoned for single-family dwellings. In 1998, a lawsuit was filed against a condominium development alleging violations of state architectural barrier laws. After being tried, in 2008 the judge ordered the developer to spend 1.5 million dollars for retrofits bringing them into compliance with the New jersey Barrier-Free Subcode.
Public Policy Advocacy
The Community Health Law Project's staff continued to address systems-wide issues that affect our clients in a number of ways. For example, we participated in statewide coalitions such as the New Jersey Anti-Poverty Network; New Jersey Medicaid and Medicare Advocates Group; and various county Professional Advisory Committees to local Mental Health Planning Boards. We took active roles in the government affairs committees and other activities of statewide organizations such as Disability Rights New Jersey; the New Jersey Association of Mental Health Agencies and the Mental Health Association in New Jersey. CHLP's direct services staff attorneys and advocates participated in dozens of local advisory boards and task forces around the state addressing issues such as homelessness, mental illness, developmental disabilities,
Social Security, HIV/AIDS services, prisoner reentry and human services. In addition, CHLP provided community education and training on a variety of topics, including Social Security Disability, landlord-tenant law and the provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Amendments Act of 2008. We also continued to train consumers and mental health professionals and advocates regarding the extinguishment of psychiatric hospital liens and debts.
Trainings and Workshops
CHLP offers a wide range of workshops for consumers and professionals. With the support of the New Jersey State Bar Foundation, it presents one to two Law & Disability Issues conferences a year at the New Jersey Law Center in New Brunswick. Subjects include general civil rights cases, fair housing rights, health care issues and new laws affecting people in institutional settings. CHLP’s branch offices also present trainings to consumers and professionals in their local service areas.
Student Internship Program
Since 1987 CHLP has been holding its annual Ann Klein Advocates Awards Dinner, the proceeds of which support its student internship program. Using these funds, as well as funding from Legal Services of New Jersey, CHLP has been able to hire several law students and graduate students every year to work in its branch offices on direct legal services and in its South Orange office on civil rights cases. In so doing, it helps to train and inspire the next generation of disabilities advocates and attorneys.