Sounding Too Familiar: A Long History of Lack of Oversight
Excerpts from a speech by Assemblyman Frank Lanterman before the State Council on Developmental Disabilities
February 21, 1979
Note: Frank Lanterman was a Republican member of the California State Assembly who was the chief author of the law that created the developmental disabilities system and the regional centers in order to move individuals out of institutions. He was also the brother of an individual with developmental disabilities who lived with him until the end of his life.
As the principal author of the legislation (the Lanterman Act), I have some pride of fathership… I was very disappointed to learn that our Regional Centers have been forced to deny support for services to children living in their own homes when our law specifically designates such service as the highest priority. I have been told that the State administration actually instructed each of the 21 Regional Centers to develop a “hit list” to determine which of their clients will be denied services.
In my mind, this is organized, deliberate, planned, criminal neglect. The law establishes a right to treatment for all. The State administration is legally obliged to protect and implement this right – but year after year, this administration has failed to competently budget and properly fund the Regional Centers to carry out the State’s mandate. They have failed to project adequate case loads and cost; have failed to secure accurate cost information from Regional Centers and contract agencies; have failed to eliminate the tragic year-end reversion of funds – at the same time that thousands go unserved; and they have failed to develop effective management procedures to monitor the Regional Center’s revenue collection.
The Administration has shifted the responsibility for these planning and administrative shortcomings to the Regional Center – and the centers have mistakenly accepted the responsibility for denying services to the State’s clients. And now they find themselves carrying the administration’s hatchet – a strange role for people in the helping profession.
Remember, the legal responsibility to serve the developmentally disabled rests with the State. As Section 4501 of the Welfare and Institutions Code says: “The State of California accepts a responsibility for its developmentally disabled citizens and an obligation to them which it must discharge…”
Regional Centers are merely the contract mechanism for carrying out that State responsibility. Now we see lawsuits against the Regional Centers. It is a good thing we have the courts as a last resort – but why did you let things go this far?
Why isn’t the Department of Developmental Services fighting to improve and extend services in the community? Isn’t this their primary function? Why isn’t the Department pressuring the Regional Centers to locate additional unserved clients and to secure all the services prescribed in the Individual Program Plans?
We who have championed the cause of the disabled cannot be party to any drive to “lower the expectations” of our handicapped citizens. We cannot be party to any drive to balance the budget at their expense. Remember – the developmentally disabled and their families are not responsible for any management and administrative problems that may exist in the service system. We cannot accept the logic that they should be penalized for the mistakes of the bureaucracy.
We cannot tolerate the cold, cynical squashing of human rights in defiance of Legislative intent and state and Federal law.
You must not be silent or accepting of these atrocities. High officials who perpetrate and defend these inhumane policies must be reminded that they are the servants of the public. It is our job to remind them – in no uncertain terms. There is much to be done. It is now time to act.