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Living with Autism


September 19, 2012

California Regional Centers Serving Disabled People? Let's do Better

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First: There are some really dedicated, caring, intelligent and creative people that work in one of the 21 Regional Centers scattered across California. This in no way reflects on them, but I'm putting here because, well, it's truth. It's reality. And unless we face it, we can't change what's wrong. We can't make things better. We learn from our mistakes, right? We hope the things we do wrong, inspire us to do better. We hope those that lead, when they see such pervasive problems in their organization, would be highly motivated to make a positive impact on providing the best services and supports to our most vulnerable citizens.

So here we go. Here's what I found about some of California's Regional Centers.

Multiple Discrimination Lawsuits Filed Against Self-Proclaimed Advocate of Individual Rights San Diego Regional Center

 San DIEGO, CA -- (MARKET WIRE) -- February 23, 2006 -- Handal & Associates has filed a second lawsuit against the San Diego Regional Center for the Developmentally Disabled ("SDRC") alleging that SDRC has engaged in an active campaign to rid itself of disabled employees and employees over the age of 40.

In the lead lawsuit, Fuess v. San Diego Regional Center for the Developmentally Disabled, filed in the San Diego Superior Court, Plaintiff, Marie Fuess, former SDRC employee, alleges that she was forced to endure a year of harassment and intolerable working conditions at SDRC until she was finally terminated without cause.

Both suits further allege SDRC maintains a culture of fear and intimidation and that a routine practice for supervisors is to harass, threaten, and intimidate employees to quit in order to save costs on health care, retirement benefits, or other costs associated with older employees and those with disabilities.

SDRC is non-profit organization which receives both state and federal funding.

SDRC contracts with the California State Department of Developmental Services to assist persons in San Diego and Imperial counties who have developmental disabilities.

On its website, (http://www.sdrc.org/c_home.php ) SDRC states that its corporate goals include protecting individual rights through advocacy. 

  • Historical Evidence showing California's Regional Centers Have Some Serious Issues that Have Never been Resolved....

San Francisco Chronicle: August 4, 1997; Agencies for disabled in disarray. “The sprawling bureaucracy that controls more than $1 billion a year for developmentally disabled Californians is plagued by mismanagement and financial abuses so severe that the health and safety of the disabled have been jeopardized. State officials have known for two decades of serious problems in the network of 21 private, state-funded regional centers…More than 100 interviews and thousands of pages of audits, state reports and court documents revealed that some centers have been linked to embezzlement, fraud and unethical financial deals. 

Hundreds of children and adults with varying degrees of...autism....have received inadequate services—or no services at all—though the state and federal governments have increased regional center budgets by millions of dollars a year.”

  • December 5, 1997, Chronicle writer Edward W. Lempinen, wrote: In a scathing report hand-delivered to top state officials yesterday, the U.S. Health Care Financing Administration criticized the state for risking the health and safety of the disabled, lax state oversight of their care and mismanagement of federal funds… Disabled people and their families who complain about services sometimes suffer retaliation from those who oversee their care.”

  • Since the 1997 San Francisco investigative news coverage the only thing proposed to help track and monitor disabled people within the Regional Center has been in 2006: Under the client-tracking legislation, SB 571, each regional center would have to submit a Client Development Evaluation Report on each client at least every 15 months. The Department of Developmental Services, the primary agency monitoring Regional Centers opposed the bill. The bill was later gutted. Why would an agency appointed to protect disabled oppose a bill protecting disabled? Because these agencies don’t want the public to see the pervasive systematic neglect of disabled.

  • June 23, 2001, Los Angeles Times: “State officials have moved to revoke the licenses of 14 homes and day care centers for developmentally disabled adults operated by an Anaheim company accused of allowing clients to be sexually and physically abused….California Department of Social Services accused Westview Services of a variety of health and safety violations at the facilities, which are licensed to serve about 530 people in Orange and Los Angeles counties.”

  • March 18, 2001 San Francisco Chronicle: “In 1965, the legislature created two pilot organizations for providing community services in San Francisco and Los Angeles. Called regional centers, they served as nonprofit brokers between state coffers and local suppliers of housing, training and other services to the disabled… State legislators, though, soon learned of serious problems in the new community care system. Reports and audits submitted to them in 1976 and 1988 described abuses of power, high turnover among social workers, poor accounting practices and chronic budget deficits at the regional centers.” But the Executive Directors make upwards of $200,000 a year...

  • February 25, 2001, The Sacramento Bee reported: “…a class-action lawsuit filed last year in an Oakland federal court on behalf of several disabled Californians and a handful of advocacy groups…. Allegations are that the state has failed to provide adequate services for disabled people….” It's 2014 and nothing much has changed...

  • January 12-18, 2005, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper: “Oversight at community-care facilities has been riddled with controversy since 1997, when the San Francisco Chronicle published a series of stories that shed light on serious problems...”

  • Jan 01, 2007, Sacramento Bee reported ongoing saga of failed system serving disabled. Latest discovery: "Failure of Regional Centers to monitor or protect disabled has led to hundreds of DEATHS of disabled persons"

Why are some California Regional Centers good, and others so screwed up? Let's start from the top at San Diego Regional Center.

His name is Carlos Flores.
He's the executive director at SDRC.

Flores has a nice thing going at SDRC: He's married to the "assistant chief case manager", Nina Garrett. They attend many meetings together where funding issues and money are discussed, but nobody seems to give a shit.

Flores and Garrett have never filed a conflict of interest report, though they demand others who work for SDRC file one.

It's a very strange situation.

According to SDRC transparency site, Executive Director Carlos Flores is raking in $250,000 a year. Meanwhile, he's sending parents of disabled children notices of actions cutting and denying services because San Diego Regional Center is concerned about being "cost effective."

San Diego Regional Center is a NON PROFIT agency providing social services under contract with California Department of Developmental Services (DDS). That contract mandates the San Diego Regional Center provide services and supports to California's developmentally disabled population.  I understand the need to be cost effective, and pay an Executive Director a good salary, but let's get real here.  Pay them the salary when they've proven they can do their job and haven't just found a place to hide. 

In regards to Executive Directors of non profits, New Jersey recently passed a *bill (HB 893) that limits what nonprofit groups can pay their chief executives if they are providing social services under state contracts. I guess California hasn't caught up with the East Coast. 

*The bill would call for a commission to study $100,000 salary caps for employees at state-supported nonprofits, as well as research into whether lawmakers should ban the use of tax dollars for salaries.

Carlos Flores, Salary   SEE him at #63 in San Diego Union Tribune article:


southeastmom said...

Kim, I saw your previous post that detailed what your son went through and I want you to know that I was completed appalled. I also felt fear and determination because my son is also very vulnerable. He is non-verbal and not always passive or adaptable which is characteristic of autism. It is chilling to feel that people will take advantage of his vulnerability and difficulties, but this has been documented over and over. In our state, we don't have institutions (beyond the short term minimum) or community care. The school provisions are substandard (thus, I am homeschooling) and little lies beyond that for adults. I wonder if we will ever see a system that has oversight and care comparable to that of responsible parents? I have some doubts. How sad is that?

advocatus said...

AS the mother of a 47 year old son with autism and other disabilities, I entirely understand what you and Kim are going through and have gone through. I have worked all of my life to establish and (hopefully) maintain after my death my son in a home of his own. Actually the house is owned by a Special Needs Trust, inaccessible to him.

My first husband and I went through absolute hell when our boy went through puberty. Those years were the only times when we actually considered placement out-of-home. His behavior was so self-injurious, and downright frightening, we about gave up...but we didn't. The alternatives were too terrible.

So hang in there no matter what.

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