Officials call for mental health facility to close after one of its residents killed on N.J. highway


Officials call for mental health facility to close after one of its residents killed on N.J. highway

The man fatally struck by two cars in Manalapan was a resident of a nearby group home that town leaders have repeatedly sought to have closed over safety concerns and filthy living conditions, officials confirmed.

The 38-year-old man was crossing from the eastbound lane of Route 33 and Woodward Road around 7:20 p.m. Wednesday when he was first hit by a Toyota Rav 4 going east, according to the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office. Another vehicle – a Lexus RX – traveling behind the Toyota also struck the man. He was not in a crosswalk when he was hit and the vehicles had a green light, authorities said.

Police Chief Michael Fountain confirmed the man lived at a nearby facility known as Manalapan Manor, licensed as a residential healthcare facility. His name has not yet been released by police.

In a letter Thursday, Deputy Mayor Susan Cohen again urged state regulators to close the Manor. The facility, she said, puts its residents in danger, has “disgusting living conditions,” and has seen multiple residents killed by vehicles, and other causes.

Three Manalapan Manor residents were killed by vehicles on Route 33 near the facility between 2014 and 2016 as they crossed or walked along the thoroughfare to reach nearby stores, according to a previous letter sent from town officials. Police have responded to numerous calls at the facility, including for mental health concerns, disorderly people and harassment.

Complaints about the facility include “multiple inoperative toilets at the same time, backing up sewage in bathtubs, infestations of cockroaches, bedbugs and flies, strong odors of cigarettes, insufficient food and generally dirty and un-clean conditions,” according to the township. Manor residents were often reported to be unsupervised “wandering on the state highway” and panhandling in the road.

“In the letter that we sent on Nov. 6, 2019, we clearly stated, ‘Residents of Manalapan should not have to fear driving down Route 33 and killing someone or driving into a panhandler,’” the deputy mayor’s most recent letter said.

“The township does not believe the owner of the facility is capable or willing to operate a quality facility in accordance with applicable regulations for the benefit of the citizens who reside there,” a statement from the town said. “That is why we strongly urge the NJ Department of Community Affairs to revoke their license.”

Officials with the Bureau of Rooming and Boarding House Standards, an agency within DCA, found Manalapan Manor was in compliance with state standards after an unannounced Nov. 7 inspection, according to a News12 report at the time.

Cohen’s letter was sent to DCA staff and copied to Gov. Phil Murphy and Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver, who also serves as community affairs commissioner.

Spokespeople for the Department of Community Affairs and governor’s office did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment Thursday evening. Calls to Manalapan Manor went unanswered late Thursday.

Noah Cohen may be reached at ncohen@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @noahyc. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

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