DISABLED SERVICES: Legislators Criticize ‘Idle’ Van Program
The state Department of Rehabilitation has "failed to expeditiously retrofit" 39 new vans for severely disabled Californians, says a new report by the Joint Legislative Task Force on Government Oversight. According to the report, the vans, valued at $860,000, "have sat idle in a Sacramento warehouse -- some for more than two years -- even though the state has a backlog of applicants for them." The report also "cites a number of potential problems, from loss of warranty protections on the vans to safety issues, including storage of the vehicles with gasoline in their tanks in an enclosed area." State Assembly Human Resources Committee Chair Dion Aroner (D-Berkeley), who released the report yesterday at a press conference, said, "My objection is that they are sitting there so long." She added, "Eleven of the vans have been assigned to clients, but they are still sitting there." The Los Angeles Times reports that Aroner "has scheduled a hearing this month on what she sees as the vehicle program's shortcomings."
Better Late Than Never
The department "defended the stockpiling," noting that "it can take up to a year to modify a van and train a disabled driver." Department deputy director Margaret Lamb said, "I don't believe that we have in fact screwed up," but conceded her department did need "to work toward expediting the process." The Times reports that the department distributes approximately 30 vans each year to disabled Californians under a "little-known program designed" to help the disabled lead more independent lives. The department "retrofits" the van -- at a cost between $15,000 to $20,000 -- to accommodate the special needs of the disabled person, who then receives driving training. According to Aroner, 11 vans have been assigned to clients, but only one van has been retrofitted. "It's very important to make sure that we do the best job we can before we ... issue the vans or vehicles to clients," said Lamb (Gladstone, 3/13).