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Area Agency for Disabled, Closed by State, Will Be Re-Established

December 01, 1985|MARY BARBER | Times Staff Writer

After months of protest, the state Department of Developmental Services has decided to re-establish a San Gabriel Valley agency to supervise services for more than 3,500 victims of neurological handicaps.

The state abolished the San Gabriel Valley Regional Center for the Developmentally Disabled in June after a state investigation showed that the center's fiscal management was inadequate.

The regional centers identify and assess children and adults who have neurological handicaps such as retardation, cerebral palsy and epilepsy and contract for services to help them. The private, nonprofit centers are governed by boards representing their areas and are funded by the state.

The decision to put a San Bernardino regional center in charge of local services provided to San Gabriel Valley clients sparked protests by hundreds of people. The protesters, complaining that state requirements regarding local control were being violated, sued to reverse the state's decision.

Basis for Decision

State officials said last week that the decision to re-establish the center, whose offices are in Covina, was based not on the suit or the protests but on a request by Inland Counties Regional Center, the agency chosen by the state to run the San Gabriel Valley programs.

"The Inland board does not want this job and asked us to begin the process of incorporating a new (San Gabriel) board," said Al Lee, chief deputy director of the Department of Developmental Services.

In June, the state awarded Inland, headquartered in San Bernardino, a contract to administer the San Gabriel Valley center for one year. In June, 1986, Inland will be given another one-year contract, during which it is expected to resolve administrative problems, and the center then will be re-established in the San Gabriel Valley in 1987, Lee said.

"Inland felt the problems were major and could not be handled over a short period of time," Lee said.

Must Select New Board

By 1987, he said, the management and fiscal problems should be resolved and the process of selecting a new board to run the San Gabriel Valley center can be completed.

Although parents and caretakers of the disabled said they are pleased that the center will be re-established in the Valley, they do not think it will take two years to resolve all the problems. They plan to amend their court suit in an attempt to force the state to hasten the return of the San Gabriel Valley center.

"This was a surprise to me and I was delighted," said Alex Turner, who operates a residential care facility. He said he believes facilities such as his can be overseen better by an agency close to home. "Now we want a board in place as soon as possible," he said.

The San Gabriel Valley Regional Center covered 27 cities in the El Monte, Monrovia and Pomona health districts and had an $18- million annual budget. Its duties were assumed by the Inland Counties Regional Center on July 1.

Charge Law Broken

Protesters contended at the time that in awarding the contract to Inland the state ignored a requirement that local boards reflect the ethnic and geographical makeup of the areas they govern.

They also maintained that when a center is dissolved, the state has up to 120 days to run it before appointing a new board. They have contended that transferring the center's administration to Inland violated the law. The state should have appointed another local board and re-established a center in the San Gabriel Valley, they said.

Lee, however, contends that Inland's contract is "perfectly within the law."

The protesters formed the Parents Coalition for 120 Days and filed suit seeking to re-establish the San Gabriel Valley Regional Center. Developmental Disabilities Area Board 10, an advisory group, joined in the suit, which is scheduled to be heard in Los Angeles County Superior Court on Friday.

Urged to Form Board

A spokesman said the state department wants to establish the San Gabriel Valley board before July, 1987, but that the former board's financial and management problems must be resolved first.

San Gabriel Valley parents and caretakers of the disabled were urged to work toward the formation of a new board at a meeting last week in West Covina.

Julie Jackson, special consultant for the Community Services Division of the Department of Developmental Services, said an advisory and organizing committee will be formed by February to solicit nominations of future board members.

Bruce Saltzer, executive director of Area Board 10, said he has a prospective board lined up, in the hope that the court will decide that the center should be re-established sooner.

'Lack of Monitoring'

Paul Carleton, deputy director of community services for the state developmental services department, said the center was abolished because of its fiscal problems and a "lack of monitoring" of its contract services.

Lee said that financial accounts had not been balanced for two years, "they had personnel problems, the staff had not been trained and they had no set routines of responsibilities."

Marshall Mabry, former chairman of the defunct center, has acknowledged that the center failed to properly monitor many of its contract services and did an inadequate job of bookkeeping.

"The buck stops with the board," he said at the time the center was abolished. "We have to take responsibility when things go wrong with administration."

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