A System in Distress: Caring for Californians with Developmental Disabilities

Report #273, April 2023


California must take action to better serve children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities, the Little Hoover Commission said in a report issued today.

In its new report, A System in Distress: Caring for Californians with Developmental Disabilities the Commission urged state policymakers to address ongoing disparities in the availability and quality of services for this vulnerable community.

The report highlights broad problems in the state developmental disabilities services system, including inconsistencies in services among racial and ethnic groups and among different regions across the state.

The Commission called on the Legislature to further expand state oversight of the 21 regional centers, and to establish more consistent policies, procedures and a core set of services offered statewide. The Commission’s seven recommendations can be found in detail at https://bit.ly/40akich.

“We are failing at providing equal access to public services for the intellectually and developmentally disabled,” said Chair Pedro Nava. “These valuable services, or a lack thereof, can make a critical impact on an individual’s and their family’s quality of life.”

Twenty-one regional nonprofit agencies called regional centers are charged with coordinating these services, with oversight from the California Department of Developmental Services. The Commission found that each regional center currently has discretion to establish its own processes to assess individuals for services and determine the array of services offered and under what conditions. This leads to substantial variation in client experiences across the state.

“The developmental disabilities services system offers a vital lifeline to many individuals and their families,” said Vice Chair Sean Varner. “We must do more to address inequalities and inefficiencies in service to better support those who need assistance.”

Written testimony from hearing witnesses can be found in the corresponding event agendas.

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