State Does Not Inspect Required Number of Care Facilities
The state this fiscal year will not visit 20% of assisted-living facilities and child care centers scheduled for inspection and likely will not perform 15% of random spot checks of facilities as required by state law, despite relaxed inspection regulations, the Sacramento Bee reports.
In 2003 budget negotiations, state officials changed legal standards that required officials to inspect care facilities once every one to two years. Current regulations require state officials to inspect care facilities once every five years and perform additional unannounced spot checks at 10% of the state's 79,000 care centers each year. Inspectors also must visit an institution within 10 days of a complaint being filed.
Following the change in inspection requirements, the number of citations issued at care institutions decreased by about 10%.
According to the Bee, California has the lowest legal standards for care facility inspections in the country. Most states require inspections of care facilities every one to two years.
According to the Bee, "The numbers are estimates because, even though state law requires the Department of Social Services to adhere to a strict inspection rate, state officials said they failed to keep track of whether they were doing enough facility visits last year."
DSS' Community Care Licensing Division is responsible for enforcing safety and quality standards, which include monitoring basic cleanliness to personal rights issues at facilities.
The Bee reports that it requested inspection data from the state in January, but officials were unable to supply it until this month, after completing a "hand tabulation of visits to facilities from the first quarter of this year."
DSS officials based estimates of full year inspection rates on data from the first quarter because an outdated computer system and workload increases prevented CCLD employees from keeping a count of inspection visits during 2004, according to Jeffrey Hiratsuka, chief of central operations for the division.
Staff funding for CCLD since 2001 has decreased by about 15%. Budget cuts also have affected the department's ability to conduct criminal background checks of people who work in care facilities.
A series of state audits over the past few years found that the division has not adequately verified that people with violent criminal histories are barred from working in care homes and day-care centers.
CCLD Director Jo Frederick said limited resources prevent the agency from fully investigating every arrest; instead, the state focuses on investigating arrests for serious violent crimes and arrests of current employees of care facilities. Frederick said the department is requesting funds to hire more inspectors and is upgrading its computer system. She said, "This new protocol was driven by the fact that we had to find a way to live within existing resources and figure out where was the best focus."
Joan Parks, manager of the Ombudsman Services of Northern California, said her organization has increased its scrutiny of state inspections in response to the relaxed regulations. "It's tragic, absolutely tragic that this is going on. We're very concerned that the community at large -- including the families of residents in these facilities -- are not aware of the lack of oversight."
The Assembly on Wednesday is scheduled to hear the CCLD budget proposal (Benson, Sacramento Bee, 4/24).