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More oversight sought at developmental centers

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POSTED July 17, 2013 9:48 p.m.


SACRAMENTO  (AP) — Citing a stack of reports criticizing state officials for not properly overseeing facilities that care for people with developmental disabilities, advocates called on Gov. Jerry Brown on Wednesday to appoint an independent figure to improve safety at state-run care facilities.

In a letter delivered to the governor's office, advocates said the Department of Developmental Services repeatedly has failed to improve operating procedures at the state's four developmental centers.

A new, independent safety official is needed to ensure the 1,500 residents are protected from abuse, states the letter from the California Supported Living Network, the California Disability Services Association and other organizations.

The request came after a state audit released last week described how reports of abuse at developmental centers have not been properly investigated. Auditors say investigators often failed to interview alleged victims or photograph crime scenes.

Auditors cited frequent turnover within the department's investigative arm as one reason issues raised in earlier reports have not been addressed. They recommended improving investigator training and reassessing staffing requirements at the centers.

The advocates and former residents of developmental centers who gathered at the state Capitol said they would prefer to see the facilities shut down, allowing residents to receive alternative forms of assistance. More than 99 percent of the 250,000 people who receive services through the department reside in communities, not the state-run centers.

"Ultimately the only solution to their safety is to close these institutions, but that can't happen overnight," said Greg deGiere, public policy director for The Arc and United Cerebral Palsy California Collaboration. "The people who are living there now deserve much better than California has given them."

Evan Westrup, a spokesman for the governor, referred questions to agency officials. The department says it already has implemented many of the audit's recommendations at the four centers and a smaller community facility, including creating an automated incident reporting system.

"Any case of abuse is unacceptable whether it happens in a developmental center or in the community and we will continue to use our best effort to prevent it from occurring and actively take measures to respond appropriately when it does occur," department director Terri Delgadillo wrote to auditors.

California Health and Human Services Secretary Diana Dooley created a task force last month to determine how best to meet the needs of developmental center residents. The task force is expected to release a report in November.


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