Thursday, May 17, 2007


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Introduction of Danielle's Act - May 17, 2007

Introduction of Danielle's Act
May 17, 2007

M. President,

I rise today with my good friend Senator Lautenberg to reintroduce Danielle's Act, an important piece of legislation that I know will save countless lives.

I would also like to recognize Representative Rush Holt, who has championed the bill in the House, and has been a tireless advocate for individuals with disabilities.

This bill is named in memory of a young woman from New Jersey, Danielle Gruskowski, whose life was cut tragically short by a failure to call 9-1-1. The great State of New Jersey has already passed Danielle's Law and it is time for Congress to act as well.

M. President, in order to understand the importance of this legislation, I would like to share Danielle's story.

She was born December 6, 1969 to Diane and Doug Gruskowski and raised in Carteret, New Jersey. Danielle was developmentally disabled, and diagnosed with Rett Syndrome, a neurological disorder that causes a delay or regression in development, including speech, hand skills, and coordination.

While Danielle needed help with daily activities, she managed to lead a full and active life. As a young adult, Danielle moved to a group home to experience the positive benefits of independent living.

Tragically, on November 5, 2002, Danielle passed away at the age of 32 because no one in the group home called 9-1-1 when she was clearly in need of emergency medical attention.

So that no other mother would lose her child in such a tragic circumstance, Danielle's mother and her aunt, Robin Turner, developed a strong coalition of supporters and worked with their state representatives to develop and pass what we know as Danielle's Law.

Like the New Jersey law, my bill will require staff working with individuals who have a developmental disability or traumatic brain injury to call emergency services in the event of a life-threatening situation.

The legislation would raise the standard of care by improving staff training and ensuring that individuals with developmental disabilities get emergency care when they need it.

M. President, all Americans deserve an advocate, and today I am speaking for those who often cannot speak for themselves.

I'm proud to be an advocate for individuals with disabilities, and I'm proud to be an advocate for the families in New Jersey who are counting on safe, secure and healthy independent living environments for their loved ones with disabilities.

I also would like to recognize the hardworking caregivers and staff that help provide for the needs of those with disabilities.

They show their compassion everyday when they show up for work, performing one of the most difficult but rewarding jobs in our society -- caring for someone's mother, father, son, or daughter.

These caregivers play such a critical role in our society and their contributions are to be commended.

By raising awareness and education about Danielle's Law, my hope is that more caregivers will realize how important it is to call 9-1-1 for all life-threatening situations, and that better training and support will be provided to staff across the country.

M. President, I am reintroducing this legislation to remember Danielle, and to make sure no other family or community experiences the pain and suffering of losing a loved one to an avoidable death.

I hope my colleagues will join me in supporting this important bill.

M. President, I ask unanimous consent that my statement be included in the Record.

Senator Robert Menendez