To provide legal and advocacy services, training, education, and related activities to persons with disabilities and, in certain issues, to organizations representing their interests, with an emphasis on those most vulnerable and needy.
Founded in 1976, the Community Health Law Project is a statewide nonprofit advocacy and legal services organization. Originally designed to deliver legal and advocacy services to the increasing number of people with mental illness leaving institutions and living in the community during the late 1970s, CHLP has expanded its innovative service model to include people from nearly all disability groups–those with developmental disabilities, visual impairments, physical disabilities, and people living with HIV/AIDS.
Today, the Community Health Law Project provides legal representation and advocacy services to low-income people with disabilities throughout the state. Its staff of 57 operates out of regional offices in Bloomfield, Elizabeth, Trenton, Eatontown, and Collingswood, an administration office in South Orange, and satellite offices in Atlantic, Hudson, Ocean, and Burlington counties. The organization is unique in that it specializes in services exclusively for people with disabilities, although its areas of expertise cover the entire range of civil law. Through negotiation, litigation and advocacy, the Community Health Law Project removes discriminatory barriers, protects rights and preserves independence and quality of life.
In its 40 years, the Community Health Law Project has provided services to tens of thousands of individuals. Each year, CHLP helps nearly 5,000 NJ residents with disabilities through brief service and representation. Nearly forty percent of CHLP’s cases are Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income matters, with 95% of the appeals resulting in reversals of denials. The Community Health Law Project also educates thousands of practitioners of law, health and social work, as well as consumers and families, through conferences, special programs and its website, www.chlp.org.
- 1976 Community Health Law Project established by the New Jersey State Bar Association and designated by the New Jersey Supreme Court as a legal aid society
- 1978 Successful CHLP suit ensures that community residences for people with disabilities may operate in residential districts
- 1978 CHLP advocacy leads to amending the NJ Law Against Discrimination to apply to people with mental disabilities
- 1985 Federal lawsuit in Mercer County opens federally subsidized housing to people with mental health disabilities
- 1988 Successful CHLP lawsuit prohibits state from terminating adult dependents with mental disabilities from health insurance coverage under their parents’ State Health Benefits Plan
- 1994 CHLP receives U.S. Housing and Urban Development grant for work in removing architectural barriers in public accommodations
- 1995 Favorable Appellate Division ruling on CHLP - initiated suit forces NJ casinos to implement affirmative action programs of employment for people with disabilities
- 1996 CHLP statewide survey shows that only 4% of residential multifamily units comply with state and federal architectural barrier laws
- 1996 CHLP federal court suit results in invalidation of NJ municipal zoning laws that exclude group homes for people with disabilities from residential neighborhoods
- 2002 CHLP class action results in agreement by developer to fund $300,000 worth of accessibility renovations in 266 residential units
- 2004 Successful CHLP precedent – setting Appellate Division decision excluding SSI benefits from being used for child support obligations of parents with disabilities in Burns v. Edwards
- 2005 CHLP successfully advocated for eliminating state and county institutional and hospital liens, and limiting cost of care for patients of public psychiatric hospitals
- 2005 CHLP successfully advocated for statewide ADA standards and compulsory training of local welfare agencies to identify and accommodate the special needs of people with disabilities
- 2005 CHLP advocacy leads to NJ Fair Housing Act amendment requiring all new multifamily Mt. Laurel housing to be adaptable for use by people with physical disabilities
- 2008 NJ Superior Court judge orders $1.5 million worth of retrofits to make condos accessible in ADA v. Renaissance
- 2009 CHLP successfully advocated for a law requiring public official and commercial data companies to remove lien records of former psychiatric patients from public view
- 2013 CHLP received grants from Robin Hood Foundation, Kessler Foundation, Hurricane Sandy NJ Relief Fund, and Sandy Legal Assistance Fund
- 2014 CHLP settles 2007 federal court complaint against Port Authority of New York and New Jersey alleging that Jersey City PATH Station is inaccessible with the agreement to construct an elevator and lift to give access to the Grove Street Station
- 2016 CHLP expands services to clients living with HIV/AIDS to seven counties.
- 2017 CHLP helped draft the language and advocate for the successful passage of a new law which provides “due process” rights to residents of free-standing Residential Healthcare Facilities prior to eviction
- 2018 CHLP launches Medical-Legal Partnership with addiction agency to provide legal services to those afflicted by the opioid crisis
- 2018 CHLP enters into a contract with the City of Elizabeth to assist individuals in expunging their criminal records
CHLP's Areas of Expertise
- Public entitlements (Supplemental Security Income, Social Security Disability benefits, county and municipal Welfare, emergency assistance, food stamps);
- Medicaid, Medicare and other health insurance benefits, as well as fee-for-service and managed health care disputes;
- Housing advocacy (habitability and landlord-tenant issues);
- Consumer law (debt collection, bankruptcy, contracts);
- Family law (child support, visitation, domestic violence);
- Discrimination (housing, employment, education, and public accommodations);
- Barrier-free accessibility;
- Advance directives and living wills;
- Outreach and support for persons with disabilities;
- Systems coordination (information, linkage and referral); and
- Training, counseling, and technical assistance.
Eligibility for Service
Disability. CHLP assists individuals with mental health, developmental, physical, and visual disabilities; people living with HIV/AIDS and their families; and, in certain issues, organizations that serve people with disabilities.
Residence. CHLP assists people who live “in the community.” Eligibility for services varies by county of residence as determined by CHLP’s funding sources.
Income. CHLP represents low-income individuals who are unable to afford the services of private attorneys. Counseling, referral, and additional program services are available to others according to the terms of CHLP’s service contracts and grants.