ASSEMBLY, No. 4167

STATE OF NEW JERSEY

219th LEGISLATURE

 

INTRODUCED MAY 28, 2020

 


 

Sponsored by:

Assemblywoman  AURA K. DUNN

District 25 (Morris and Somerset)

 

 

 

 

SYNOPSIS

     Requires DHS to provide psychiatric service dogs to first responders, health care workers, and other frontline workers suffering from post-traumatic stress disorders due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

CURRENT VERSION OF TEXT

     As introduced.

 


An Act concerning service dogs and supplementing Title 4 of the Revised Statutes.

 

     Be It Enacted by the Senate and General Assembly of the State of New Jersey:

 

     1.    As used in the act:

     “Post-traumatic stress disorder” means a mental illness classified within the current version of the American Psychiatric Association Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) with symptoms that include, but are not limited to, anxiety, reclusiveness, night terrors, startle reaction, neurochemical imbalance, dissociative flashback, startle response, sensory overload, social withdrawal, hyper-vigilance, and hallucinations.

     “Psychiatric service dog” means a dog trained to assist an individual who has a psychiatric or mental disability, including post-traumatic stress disorder.

 

     2.    a.   In response to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, the Department of Human Services shall contract with a recognized service dog training agency or school to provide psychiatric service dogs trained by the agency or school to first responders, health care workers, and other frontline workers suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

     b.    To be eligible to receive a trained psychiatric service dog from the Department of Human Services pursuant to subsection a. of this section, an individual shall:

     (1)   be a State resident;

     (2)   be a first responder, health care worker, or frontline worker;

     (3)   suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder and qualify as limited in their ability to function due to mental illness under the Americans with Disabilities Act "Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990" (42 U.S.C. s.12101 et seq.) due to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), as certified by a physician or mental health provider;

     (4)   apply to receive a trained psychiatric service dog on a form and in a manner prescribed by the Commissioner of Human Services; and

     (5)   adhere to the standards established by the commissioner for receiving a trained psychiatric service dog including, but not limited to, providing humane shelter and care for the service dog and obeying all State laws concerning the prevention of cruelty to animals.

     c.     An individual who meets the eligibility requirements of subsection b. of this section shall:

     (1)   be provided with a trained psychiatric service dog, at no cost to the individual;

     (2)   procure a license and register the service dog in the municipality where the individual resides; and

     (3)   be responsible for all costs relating to the dog’s shelter and care.

     d.    An individual who receives a psychiatric service dog from the Department of Human Services pursuant to subsection c. of this section shall have the option to maintain ownership of the psychiatric service dog, except that an individual who opts not to maintain ownership of the psychiatric service dog shall return the service dog to the department.  The Department of Human Services shall then return the service dog to the training agency or school that trained the dog.

 

     2.    The Commissioner of Human Services, pursuant to the "Administrative Procedures Act," P.L.1968, c.410 (C.52:14B-1 et seq.) shall adopt rules and regulations necessary to effectuate the purposes of this act.

 

     3.    This act shall take effect immediately.

 

 

STATEMENT

 

     This bill requires that in response to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, the Department of Human Services (DHS) contract with a recognized service dog training agency or school to provide psychiatric service dogs trained by the agency or school to first responders, health care workers, and other frontline workers suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder due to the pandemic.

     As used in the bill: “post-traumatic stress disorder” means a mental illness classified within the current version of the American Psychiatric Association Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) with symptoms that include, but are not limited to, anxiety, reclusiveness, night terrors, startle reaction, neurochemical imbalance, dissociative flashback, startle response, sensory overload, social withdrawal, hyper-vigilance, and hallucinations; and “psychiatric service dog” means a dog trained to assist an individual who has a psychiatric or mental disability, including post-traumatic stress disorder.

     To be eligible to receive a trained psychiatric service dog from the DHS, an individual must: be a State resident; be a first responder, health care worker, or frontline worker suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder and qualify as limited in their ability to function due to mental illness under the Americans with Disabilities Act "Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990" due to COVID-19, as certified by a physician or mental health provider; apply to receive a trained psychiatric service dog on a form and in a manner prescribed by the Commissioner of Human Services; and adhere to the standards established by the commissioner for receiving a trained psychiatric service dog including, but not limited to, providing humane shelter and care for the service dog and obeying all State laws concerning the prevention of cruelty to animals.

     An individual who meets the eligibility requirements of the bill will: be provided with a trained psychiatric service dog, at no cost to the individual; procure a license and register the service dog in the municipality where the individual resides; and be responsible for all costs relating to the dog’s shelter and care.

     An individual who receives a psychiatric service dog from the DHS would have the option to maintain ownership of the psychiatric service dog.  If the individual opts not to maintain ownership of the service dog, that individual would return the service dog to the DHS, and the DHS would then return the service dog to the training agency or school that trained the dog.

     According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety disorders, including PTSD, are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults, or 18.1 percent of the population, every year. 

     The COVID-19 pandemic has the potential to increase stress and anxiety, both because of the fear of catching the virus and also because of uncertainty about how the outbreak will affect us socially and economically during the pandemic and for years to come.  Individuals who may respond more strongly to the stress of the pandemic include, but are not limited to, older individuals, individuals with chronic diseases who are at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19, health care workers, first responders, frontline  workers, and individuals with PTSD.

     A service dog is specifically task-trained to help an individual with a disability, including PTSD, that substantially limits one or more life activities.  This bill would allow individuals suffering from PTSD due to the COVID-19 pandemic to receive service dogs which can help alleviate the stress, grief, and anxiety, and other PTSD symptoms that they may be experiencing.