Assemblywoman Shannon Grove, R-Bakersfield, has introduced a bill aimed at closing two of California's three state-run residential centers for people with developmental disabilities.
Assembly Bill 1405 would shut Fairview Developmental Center in Orange County and Sonoma Developmental Center in Eldridge but not Tulare County's Porterville Developmental Center, which, unlike the other two, treats people referred by the criminal justice system in addition to treating others with developmental disabilities.
Under the bill, the state's financial support for the two centers would be transferred to nonprofit facilities that also care for people with developmental disabilities such as cerebral palsy, severe autism and epilepsy.
Grove said she was persuaded to introduce the bill after hearing about alleged abuse including rape, assault and neglect at the state-run centers.
"Society has changed and these institutions are no longer a necessity in society and are no longer a viable solution," she said in an interview Monday.
The Center for Investigative Reporting, relying on newly disclosed state records, reported last month that 13 people have died since 2002 as a direct result of "abuse, neglect and lack of supervision" at California's state-run developmental centers.
Roughly 1,000 people across the state live at the three developmental centers. According to Grove's office, it costs the state an average of $557,000 per patient per year to care for them, versus $16,000 at a community-based nonprofit.
The bill sets no deadline for closing the two centers, but Grove said passage of the legislation would close them by 2018.
People with family members in the state-run centers recently spoke against AB 1405 at a legislative hearing in Sacramento. They said the facilities have become home to their loved ones, and that forcing them to move would be disruptive.
The California Association of Psychiatric Technicians is also against the bill. It represents about 850 union members whose jobs would end if the Fairview and Sonoma centers are closed.
A consultant for the association, Coby Pizzotti, said the state-run centers are generally more expensive than nonprofit facilities because they offer more comprehensive services. If a patient requires multiple services, he said, chances are that person would need to seek help from multiple nonprofits.
While the state-run centers appear to have high incidences of abuse, he said, it is not well understood how often nonprofits are the targets of similar problems because their public reporting requirements are less stringent.
"That's what's scary," he said. "We don't know what is going on in the community."
Among the bill's supporters is Jim Baldwin, president of Bakersfield ARC, which provides job training, employment and other services for locals with developmental disabilities. His organization gets customer referrals from Kern Regional Center, which stands to receive more clients if Grove's bill passes.
Baldwin said caring for disabled people in the community provides a better standing of living -- and greater accountability -- than putting patients in a state-run developmental center.
"This is a great bill. I can't tell you (how needed)," he said. "Long overdue."