Developmentally Disabled Centers Get a Hearing

A state audit raised some concerns about some of the financial steps taken by some of the state’s California Regional Centers. The centers are designed to help patients with developmental disabilities.

“Many changes have occurred recently, including losing about $500 million in funding,” oversight chair and Senate member Carol Liu (D-La Canada Flintridge) said. “Such changes make it imperative to look at how to provide these necessary services in a cost-effective way.”

“Over $4 billion goes through these centers,” Assembly member Hector De La Torre (D-South Gate) said. “So if something isn’t as efficient as it can be, we need to fix it. Our goal is to watch that money, because that’s a hell of a lot of money.”

At issue, said auditor Elaine Howle, is the way some of the regional centers did their subcontracting.

“They were conducting the type of monitoring activities that they were supposed to be doing, generally,” Howle said. But they provided little oversight for vendor selection and how rates are negotiated and established.”

Howle felt that the expenditures themselves were appropriate. “But there needed to be stronger documentation over how rates are set,” she said. “There was sometimes the appearance of favoritism. And in one instance, there was a familial relationship.”

The audit, she said, couldn’t determine how the rates were set in 26 of 61 cases. “And there were five rates set that appeared to violate the state rate freeze,” Howle said.

Often, she said, contracts were awarded and rates set using a relatively cursory system.

“We looked at 33 contracts, and only 9 were advertised,” she said. “And only 4 showed any evidence of competitive bidding.”

All of these concerns were taken up with the Department of Developmental Services where the response was strong and receptive to initiating the changes suggested by the auditor, Howle said.

“We do think the department overall is headed in the right direction,” Howle said. “And overall it has taken the recommendations seriously.”

Terri Delgadillo, director of the Department of Developmental Services, said the audit has already produced one change.

“We had not expanded practices to include the rate freeze,” Delgadillo said. “We should have done that, and now we have done that.”

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