Los Angeles County Office of the Public Guardian Program Needs Staff, Funding Increases, Audit Finds
The Los Angeles County Office of the Public Guardian requires additional staff and funding to reduce backlogs and improve morale in its probate conservatorship program with mental or physical illnesses, according to an audit released Wednesday, the Los Angeles Times reports. OPG is appointed by probate courts to manage the money and daily care of 505 people, many of whom are seniors or have low incomes.
The audit, commissioned by the county Board of Supervisors and conducted by a consulting firm, found that the public guardian declines 84% of referrals from hospitals, social workers and Adult Protective Services. In addition, each staff member supervises 75 to 90 cases -- twice as many as staff members at comparable agencies -- and it takes six months on average for staff members to review a case. However, the agency in recent months has "reduced its backlog substantially," according to the Times.
The report attributed inefficiency and low morale within the agency to a "problematic management culture." According to the Times, the report found that employees said upper level managers were "unresponsive, out of touch with their day-to-day problems and did not keep regular hours."
The Los Angeles County program -- the largest of its kind in the state -- has not received public funds since the early 1990s. Most funding for the program comes from fees paid by clients and hospitals and Adult Protective Services referral fees paid "to receive priority for their cases," according to the Times.
The audit recommends adding one employee to investigate potential cases and two employees to manage existing ones. The additions would cost $201,021, officials said (Fields, Los Angeles Times, 5/12).