Advocates Want New Official To Oversee Developmental Centers
On Wednesday, advocates for individuals with developmental disabilities urged Gov. Jerry Brown (D) to appoint an independent official to help boost patient safety at state board-and-care facilities, the AP/U-T San Diego reports.
The advocates' efforts are in response to a recent audit that found several deficiencies in the Office of Protective Services' oversight of such facilities (Olson, AP/U-T San Diego, 7/17).
Last year, lawmakers began investigating OPS' actions at the institutions in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, Sonoma and Tulare counties that serve a combined 1,800 patients.
Last week, the California State Auditor released an audit report that found several deficiencies in the OPS' investigative procedures at institutions for individuals with developmental disabilities.
Auditors found 54 deficiencies in police methods after reviewing 48 abuse complaints.
They also found that much of the data for 82 patient abuse cases that OPS sent to district attorneys for possible prosecution were "not sufficiently reliable."
In addition, the report noted that abuse cases were not promptly reported to law enforcement personnel and that officers often failed to collect:
- Statements from witnesses or suspects;
- Photographs of the crime scenes or alleged victims; and
- Interviews with alleged victims.
The report found that the state Department of Developmental Services -- which oversees OPS and the five patient centers -- has failed to address several issues raised by the auditor a decade ago, including:
- Lack of specialized training for officers;
- High turnover rates;
- Lack of a cohesive recruiting plan; and
- Increased reliance on overtime staffing.
Auditors also criticized the state Department of Public Health -- which regulates the centers -- for failing to "consistently perfor[m] all of its required duties," including:
- Investigating less-serious incidents in a timely manner; and
- Promptly performing site inspections at the centers.
The audit recommended that DDS:
- Revise training policies;
- Add a formal recruiting program; and
- Evaluate the effectiveness of health facilities' enforcement systems (California Healthline, 7/10).
Patient Advocates' Requests
In a letter delivered to Brown on Wednesday, advocates for individuals with developmental disabilities said that the state should appoint a new official to ensure that residents of such state facilities are safe from abuse.
In addition, a group of advocates gathered outside of the state capitol building Wednesday and urged Brown to close the centers highlighted in the audit (AP/U-T San Diego, 7/17).
Jacquie Dillard-Foss -- CEO of the advocacy group Strategies to Empower People -- said the problems at the centers have "existed for decades," adding, "We are in the midst of a human crisis."
Greg deGiere -- public policy director at The Arc and United Cerebral Palsy California Collaboration -- said, "We can't wait for more bills to pass, we can't wait for more studies, we can't wait for [DDS] to try to reform itself -- they're incapable of doing that."
However, some advocates for the centers said individuals with developmental disabilities often do not have family members to take care of them and require the care offered through such facilities.
DDS said that it already has implemented several of the auditor's suggestions, including forming a task force to address problems at the developmental disability centers.
Nancy Lungren, a DDS spokesperson, in an email said, "Many actions have already taken place to improve safety of the residents and overall operation of the developmental centers."
She added that the department "acknowledges that while significant progress has been made, more can be done to improve the lives of the residents" (Chen, Center for Investigative Reporting, 7/17).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.