ABCD Legislator of the Year: Senator Nilsa I. Cruz-Perez

Published On: November 22nd, 2022Categories: News

A Lifetime of Commitment to Individuals with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities

On November 18, members gathered at the ABCD offices for a morning of good food, and good friends and colleagues to celebrate the advocacy efforts of Senator Nilsa I. Cruz-Perez.

One of the first things you notice about Senator Nilsa Cruz-Perez is the unshakable passion, commitment and care she has for serving those in need. Always kind and caring, don’t stand in her way when she has resolved to make right what is wrong or make something better.

One of the first items Senator Nilsa Cruz-Perez worked on when she arrived in Trenton in the 90’s was to require DHS to provide services to persons with IDD, not just when the services were available.  Soon after, she was one of the first legislators who advocated for community-based living for people with IDD through the funding of Self-Directed Support. Between both initiatives, she spearheaded the creation of the Office of Disability Services in DHS.

The needs of infants, toddlers and children with developmental disabilities and delays have always been a priority for the Senator. In addition to actively promoting increases to the EI system and providing support to EI providers during EIMS transition, Senator Cruz-Perez was:

  • Prime sponsor of Thriving by Three initiative which incentivizes capacity for infants and toddlers, promotes the developmental needs of young children, and builds upon existing childhood education services
  • Foremost in the discontinuation of certain treatment methods that were perceived to be emotionally and/or physically harmful in Special Education
  • Instrumental in establishing the Center for NJ Infantile Autism and Biomedical Research Center for Excellence in Autism

As recently as last year, Senator Cruz-Perez helped secure the long sought and necessary increases to day programs in the FY’22 Budget, making sure of their annualization in FY’23. (During FY’22 deliberations, near the end of the session, singlehandedly securing an additional $2.5M for day programs (1.7%) which has been also annualized.

Understanding that people with IDD need more than services to live in the community, she helped streamline and expedite the NJ SNAP application process to maximize enrollment for people with disabilities; ensure that medical care for people with IDD includes medical, psychiatric, neurological, and obstetric/gynecological care; and provide for tax incentives for hiring people with disabilities.

With unstoppable and heartfelt energy and purpose she is our “Champion of Champions.”  ABCD is pleased to present the ABCD Legislator of the Year Award to Senator Nilsa Cruz Perez.

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