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Who is accountable for suspected abuse at developmental centers?

Carlos Puma/California WatchThe Lanterman Developmental Center in Pomona, which the state wants to eventually close down. 

Patients at California’s five developmental centers are some of the state’s most vulnerable citizens. When something goes wrong at these institutions, who investigates? And who is accountable? Here’s the breakdown.

Scene of the death

  • Employees must notify the facility’s police force, the Office of Protective Services, whenever a patient dies or is seriously injured. Under Department of Developmental Services policy, these officers are required to respond immediately and secure the scene for evidence collection. 

Reporting responsibility

  • The Office of Protective Services must notify the coroner’s office and a local law enforcement agency of all deaths or serious injuries.
  • The developmental center also reports patient deaths to the state Department of Public Health, which regulates the facilities. Doctors, nurses and caretakers are “mandatory reporters” of possible abuse.

What are signs of abuse?

The Iowa Department of Human Services manual for mandatory reporters of dependent adults list: lack of medical care; lack of personal cleanliness and grooming; body odors; swollen eyes or ankles; decayed teeth or no teeth; bites, fleas, sores, lesions, lacerations; multiple, repeated or untreated injuries; injuries incompatible with explanation; bruises, broken bones or burns; untreated pressure sores; signs of confinement (tied to furniture, locked in a room, etc.); obesity, malnourishment or dehydration; tremors; difficulty in communication; broken glasses frames or lenses; drunk, overly medicated; lying in urine, feces, old food; and no use of limbs, lack of mobility.

Investigations

  • Local police or sheriff’s departments can open criminal investigations at their discretion. Coroner and medical examiner offices can perform autopsies to find the cause of death.
  • The Office of Protective Services conducts criminal investigations and internal administrative reviews of suspicious deaths.
  • The Department of Public Health investigates to determine if facility errors contributed to the death. If regulators find the developmental center at fault, they can issue fines and AA citations [PDF], which can put the facility’s license in jeopardy. However, the state has not revoked the license of its own centers even after they receive multiple AA citations. 
  • Disability Rights California, a private nonprofit group, has authority under federal and state law to investigate abuse of the disabled and publish its findings. It has access to developmental center patient records and police files the public does not. 

Tracking cases

  • City police and sheriff’s departments can refer the results of their investigations to district attorneys’ offices, which decide whether to file criminal charges.
  • Detectives with the Office of Protective Services must show their reports to lawyers for the state Department of Developmental Services, which operates the centers, before sending cases out to prosecutors.

The buck stops 

  • The governor’s office is ultimately responsible for the Office of Protective Services. The governor appoints the director of the Department of Developmental Services, who in turn chooses the police chief for the Office of Protective Services. 

The key players in California

Developmental centers

Canyon Springs Developmental Center
The Canyon Springs center in Riverside County opened in 2000 to care for a small number of patients with moderate to mild mental disabilities and behavioral problems. The treatment program aims to train patients to better control their behaviors and to provide life and employment skills in the hope that patients can return to homes in the community.

69-696 Ramon Road
Cathedral City, CA 92234
Phone: 760-770-6200
Website: www.dds.ca.gov/CanyonSprings
Number of patients: 51
Number of staff: 121
Abuse cases since 2006: 11
Unexplained injuries since 2006: 5

Fairview Developmental Center
The Fairview center in Orange County is the newest of California’s large institutions for the developmentally disabled, opening in 1959. It was built to house thousands of patients and features a power plant, auditorium and industrial kitchen. 

2501 Harbor Blvd. 
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
Phone: 714-957-5000
Website: www.dds.ca.gov/Fairview
Number of patients: 382
Number of staff: 1,500
Abuse cases since 2006: 25
Unexplained injuries since 2006: 107

Lanterman Developmental Center
The Lanterman center opened in Los Angeles County in 1927 under the name Pacific Colony with a mission to detain the “feebleminded,” according to the institution’s official history. It became greatly overcrowded by 1946, with 1,900 patients in buildings designed for 1,500. The state is working to close Lanterman over the next two to three years.

3530 Pomona Blvd.
Pomona, CA 91769-0100
Phone: 909-595-1221
Website: www.dds.ca.gov/Lanterman
Number of patients: 295
Number of staff: 1,026
Abuse cases since 2006: 21
Unexplained injuries since 2006: 180

Porterville Developmental Center
The Porterville center in Tulare County is a long-term care institution and correctional facility, housing about 200 developmentally disabled inmates who’ve been convicted of a crime or are awaiting trial, out of the more than 500 total patients. It’s built on 600 acres surrounded by orchards and opened in 1953. 

26501 Ave. 140
Porterville, CA 93258-2000
Phone: 559-782-2222
Website: www.dds.ca.gov/Porterville
Number of patients: 511
Number of staff: 1,500
Abuse cases since 2006: 82
Unexplained injuries since 2006: 122

Sonoma Developmental Center
The Sonoma center is one of the nation’s largest institutions for the developmentally disabled. It opened in 1891 on 1,600 acres southeast of Santa Rosa. The center is its own town – called Eldridge – and operates a water treatment plant and fire department 

15000 Arnold Drive
Eldridge, CA 95431
Phone: 707-938-6000
Website: www.dds.ca.gov/Sonoma
Number of patients: 558 
Number of staff: 1,629
Abuse cases since 2006: 188
Unexplained injuries since 2006: 348 

Law enforcement agencies

Office of Protective Services
Department of Developmental Services
Write: P.O. Box 944202
Sacramento, CA 94244
Phone: 916-654-1690
Website: www.dds.ca.gov
Contact the Office of Protective Services chief Corey Smith: corey.smith@dds.ca.gov, 916-654-1960

Cathedral City Police Department (Canyon Springs)
Write: 68-700 Ave. Lalo Guerrero
Cathedral City, CA 92234
Phone: 760-770-0362
Website: http://hbirddev.com/cathedralcitypolice.com/dotnetnuke
E-mail Chief Kevin Conner: k.conner@cathedralcity.gov

Costa Mesa Police Department (Fairview)
Write: 99 Fair Drive
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
Phone: 714-754-5281
Website: www.ci.costa-mesa.ca.us/departments/CMPolice.htm
E-mail: pdadjutant@ci.costa-mesa.ca.us

Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (Lanterman)
Write: 4700 Ramona Blvd.
Monterey Park, CA 91754
Phone: 323-267-4800
Website: http://sheriff.lacounty.gov
E-mail: info@lasd.org

Orange County Sheriff's Department (Fairview)
Write: 840 N. Eckhoff St., Suite 104
Orange, CA 92868
Phone: 714-647-7000
Website: http://egov.ocgov.com/ocgov/Sheriff-Coroner - Sandra Hutchens

Pomona Police Department (Lanterman)
Write: 490 W. Mission Blvd.
Pomona, CA 91766
Phone: 909-622-1241
Website: http://ci.pomona.ca.us/index.php/government/city-departments/police-department

Porterville Police Department (Porterville)
Write: 350 N. D St.
Porterville, CA 93257
Phone: 559-782-7400
Website: www.portervillepolice.com

Riverside County Sheriff’s Department (Canyon Springs)
Write: 4095 Lemon St.
Riverside, CA 92501
Phone: 951-955-2400
Website: www.riversidesheriff.org
E-mail: WebMgr@riversidesheriff.org

Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office (Sonoma)
Write: 2796 Ventura Ave.
Santa Rosa, CA 95403
Phone: 707-565-2511
Website: www.sonomasheriff.org

Sonoma Police Department (Sonoma)
Write: 175 1st St. West
Sonoma, CA 95476
Phone: 707-996-3602
Website: www.sonomacity.org/default.aspx?PageId=37
E-mail: sonomapd@sonomacity.org

Tulare County Sheriff’s Department (Porterville)
Write: 2404 W. Burrel Ave.
Visalia, CA 93291
Phone: 559-636-4625
Website: www.co.tulare.ca.us/government/sheriff

Coroner’s offices

Los Angeles County Coroner (Lanterman)
Write: 1104 N. Mission Road
Los Angeles, CA 90033
Phone: 323-343-0512
Website: http://coroner.lacounty.gov
E-mail Assistant Chief of Investigations Ed Winter: ewinter@coroner.lacounty.gov

Orange County Coroner (Fairview)
Write: 1071 W. Santa Ana Blvd.
Santa Ana, CA 92703
Phone: 714-647-7400
Website: http://egov.ocgov.com/ocgov/Sheriff-Coroner%20-%20Sandra%20Hutchens/Commands%20and%20Divisions/Professional%20Services%20Command/Coroner
E-mail: coroner@ocsd.org

Riverside County Coroner – Indio Facility (Canyon Springs)
Write: 47-225 Oasis St.
Indio, CA 92201
Phone: 760-863-8311
Website: www.riversidesheriff.org/coroner

Sonoma County Coroner’s Office (Sonoma)
Write: 3336 Chanate Road
Santa Rosa, CA 95404
Phone: 707-565-5070
Website: http://www.sonomasheriff.org/about_coroner.php

Tulare County Coroner (Porterville)
Write: 1225 S. O St.
Tulare, CA 93274
Phone: 559-685-2593
Website: www.co.tulare.ca.us/government/sheriff/coroner_division/default.asp

District attorneys

Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office (Lanterman)
Write: 210 W. Temple St., Suite 18000
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Phone: 213-974-3512
Website: http://da.co.la.ca.us/
E-mail: http://da.co.la.ca.us/feedback.htm#email

LA County District Attorney's Office – Elder Abuse Unit (Lanterman)
Write: 201 N. Figueroa St., Suite 1600
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Phone: 213-580-3383
Elder abuse hotline: 877-477-3646
Website: http://da.lacounty.gov/seniors
E-mail: GSatriano@da.lacounty.gov

Orange County District Attorney’s Office (Fairview)
Write: 401 Civic Center Drive
Santa Ana, CA 92701
Phone: 714-834-3600
Website: http://orangecountyda.com
E-mail: http://orangecountyda.com/home/index.asp?page=160

Riverside County District Attorney’s Office (Canyon Springs)
Write: 3960 Orange St.
Riverside, CA 92501
Phone: 951-955-5400
Website: www.rivcoda.org

Sonoma County District Attorney's Office (Sonoma)
Write: 600 Administration Drive, Room 212J
Santa Rosa, CA 95403
Phone: 707-565-2311
Website: http://da.sonoma-county.org/
E-mail: http://da.sonoma-county.org/contactus.aspx

Tulare County District Attorney’s Office (Porterville)
Write: 87 E. Morton Ave.
Porterville, CA 93257
Phone: 559-782-9600
Website: www.da-tulareco.org
E-mail: Damail@co.tulare.ca.us

State-level agencies and lawmakers

California Department of Developmental Services
Write: P.O. Box 944202
Sacramento, CA 94244
Phone: 916-654-1690
Website: http://www.dds.ca.gov/

California Department of Public Health
Phone: 916-558-1784
Website: www.cdph.ca.gov
E-mail: www.cdph.ca.gov/_layouts/dhs/sitecomments/default.aspx
File a complaint: www.cdph.ca.gov/services/Pages/ComplaintsCaliforniaHealthCare.aspx
Information on local health services: www.cdph.ca.gov/services/Pages/LocalServices.aspx

California Department of Social Services
Phone: 916-651-8848
Website: www.cdss.ca.gov
Adult Protective Services information by county: www.cdss.ca.gov/agedblinddisabled/PG2300.htm

Senate Committee on Human Services
Sen. Carol Liu, chairwoman
1020 N St., Room 521
Sacramento, CA 95814
Website: shum.senate.ca.gov
Consultants: Mareva Brown and Sara Rogers
Phone: 916-651-1524

Assembly Committee on Human Services
Assemblyman Jim Beall Jr., chairman
1020 N St., Room 124
Sacramento, CA 95814
Phone: 916-319-2089
Website: ahum.assembly.ca.gov

Former Assemblywoman Sally Lieber
Write: P.O. Box 652
Redwood City, CA 94064-0652
Website: www.sallylieber.org
E-mail: www.sallylieber.org/Contact-Us.html
Facebook: www.facebook.com/CAvoteSally
Twitter: twitter.com/#!/sallylieber

Office of Gov. Jerry Brown
Write: State Capitol, Suite 1173
Sacramento, CA 95814
Phone: 916-445-2841
Website: http://gov.ca.gov/
E-mail: http://govnews.ca.gov/gov39mail/mail.php

State Attorney General's Office
Write: P.O. Box 944255
Sacramento, CA 94244-2550
Phone: 916-445-9555
Website: http://oag.ca.gov
E-mail: http://ag.ca.gov/contact/complaint_form.php?cmplt=PL

Advocacy and support groups

Californians for Disability Rights
Write: 909 12th St., Suite 200
Sacramento, CA 95814
Phone: 800-838-9237
Website: www.disabilityrights-cdr.org
E-mail: cdr4info@yahoo.com

Disability Rights Advocates
Write: 2001 Center St., Fourth Floor
Berkeley, CA 94704
Phone: 510-665-8644
Website: www.dralegal.org
E-mail: www.dralegal.org/intake/index.php

Disability Rights California
Write: 1831 K St.
Sacramento, CA 95811
Phone: 916-504-5800
Website: www.disabilityrightsca.org
E-mail: info@disabilityrightsca.org

Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund
Write: 3075 Adeline St., Suite 210
Berkeley, CA 94703
Phone: 510-644-2555
Website: www.dredf.org
E-mail: info@dredf.org

Fairview Families and Friends
Write: 2501 Harbor Blvd.
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
Phone: 714-751-2344
Website: www.fairviewfamiliesandfriends.org

National Disability Rights Network
Write: 900 Second St. NE, Suite 211
Washington, DC 20002
Phone: 202-408-9514
Website: www.ndrn.org
E-mail: www.ndrn.org/en/contact.html

Voice of the Retarded (VOR)
Write: P.O. Box 1208
Rapid City, SD 57709
Phone: 877-399-4VOR
Website: www.vor.net
Contact Northern California Coordinator Helen Hawkins: helenphawkins@aol.com, 916-435-0412
Contact Southern California Coordinator Otilia Gonzales: yodieee@hotmail.com, 714-995-7619 

Other key contacts 

Hospital Police Association of California
Contact Board President Lorenzo Indick: 626-373-6000

U.S. Justice Department
Write: 950 Pennsylvania Ave.
Washington, DC 20530
Website: www.justice.gov
E-mail: AskDOJ@usdoj.gov
Contact the Civil Rights Division: 202-514-2151
Contact the Disability Rights Section: 202-307-2227

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