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Care of Handicapped Back in Local Hands

June 29, 1986|MARY BARBER | Times Staff Writer

The new San Gabriel/Pomona Valleys Regional Center for the Developmentally Disabled will begin supervising the care of 3,800 neurologically handicapped adults and children in the area on July 1, ending a yearlong dispute with the California Department of Developmental Services.

The new center replaces a regional agency that was abolished in June, 1985, after a state investigation revealed violations of client care contracts by some residential facilities under the agency's supervision, as well as several financial accounting deficiencies.

During the interim year, the Department of Developmental Services, which oversees regional centers, contracted with Inland Counties Regional Center in San Bernardino to supervise the clients' care, an action that was rescinded by a Superior Court ruling in February.

The court ruled at that time that state law requires local control of California's 21 regional centers, which were established in 1969 to evaluate people with handicaps such as retardation, cerebral palsy and epilepsy, and to contract for services to help them.

The dispute came to a head last summer when hundreds of San Gabriel Valley parents and caretakers of the handicapped turned out to protest the transfer of services to the Inland center.

They contended that services would be disrupted and that they would not have fair representation on Inland's board of directors.

In December, the state decided at the request of the Inland center to re-establish the San Gabriel Valley center.

"The Inland board does not want this job and asked us to begin the process of incorporating a new board," Al Lee, chief deputy director of the Department of Developmental Services, said when the decision was announced.

However, the state had planned to extend the Inland contract for another year to allow time to resolve the former agency's administrative problems.

But parents and caretakers took the case to court in an effort to hasten the return of the San Gabriel Valley center.

Proponents of local control called formation of the new agency a major victory.

"I'm very pleased, and it's about time," said Bonnie Clemans, a protest leader who has a handicapped son and teaches in a nursery school for children with disabilities.

However, Clemans was critical of a report issued in May by the state auditor general's office, which said an investigation found the performance of Inland's administrators in accordance with state regulations.

The report also concluded that the contract with Inland violated the state requirement for local control of regional centers.

The report came in response to parents' complaints that under Inland, services to clients were delayed and sometimes curtailed, that aid for some caretakers was denied and that Inland delayed some clients' Supplemental Social Security payments.

"I felt a great loss of services," Clemans said. "I thought the report was slanted in Inland's favor. But that's over, and now I hope the provision of services will be more readily available to my son and to thousands like him."

Bruce Saltzer, executive director of Developmental Disabilities Area Board 10, which supervises the seven regional centers in Los Angeles County, said, "The point is that we have a new locally based board at the center. We got what we sought all along."

Elwood Hain, 48, of Altadena, a professor at Whittier College School of Law in Los Angeles and the parent of a developmentally disabled son, has been chosen president of the board of directors of the San Gabriel/Pomona Valleys center.

The state has given the board $18 million to serve the 27 cities in the Monrovia, El Monte and Pomona health districts during its first year.

The nonprofit board, which is required to reflect the geographic, ethnic and disability characteristics of its clients and to include parents and care providers, will govern the regional center under a contract with the Department of Developmental Services.

Hain said that the board has hired Judith Poindexter, director of the administrative bureau of public health programs for the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services, as the center's executive director. She is expected to start her new job July 7.

Julie Anderson, special projects consultant with the Department of Developmental Services and project director for the new center, said the new board will be required to come up with a plan to evaluate residential facilities.

Hain said that in the past year the number of clients in the San Gabriel Valley had increased from 3,500 to an estimated 3,800.

The center for San Gabriel Valley clients is at 1373 E. Center Court Drive, Covina.

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