Scathing review out on California's developmental centers

SONOMA, Calif.

This report from the Legislative Analyst's Office is really just the latest scathing review of the state's developmental centers. The alleged abuse ranges from simple neglect to more than 30 cases of sexual assault, including rape.

The path to those centers for every resident begins in a place like this, with a court order. Now some say it's time to close the facilities for good.

"It was the worst five years of my life," Kim Williams said.

The Antioch resident spent part of her childhood at the Sonoma Developmental Center. She now lives on her own in an apartment and uses an electronic voice box to communicate.

"I felt like a prisoner," Williams said. "The only reason I was in that hell hole was because I was born with cerebral palsy."

While disabled adults and their supporters rallied on the steps of the capitol, inside, lawmakers discussed the state and fate of California's five developmental centers, including a new report saying there needs to be independent oversight by the Inspector General's Office.

"Over the past decade there have been continued allegations and findings of misconduct by developmental center staff, abuse of residents," said Shawn Martin with the Legislative Analyst's Office.

The abuse includes an allegation, first reported by ABC7 News, that Sonoma staff member Archie Millora repeatedly used a Taser on disabled residents.

"Every single person I've ever spoken to that has lived in a developmental center has been abused," client advocate Jacquie Dillard-Foss said.

"There have been some very bad things that have happened," said Terry Delgadillo, director of the California Department of Developmental Services.

While Delgadillo acknowledged past problems, she insisted the centers are still viable.

"A lot of work has been done, but a lot still needs to be done," Delgadillo said. "And we look forward to working with the legislature, our stakeholders, with licensing, with the federal government to get things fixed."

Senator Mark Desaulnier, D-Concord, thinks Sonoma in particular should be closed and sold rather than fixed.

"I think we're all in a little bit of denial here, it's not working," Desaulnier said.

"The decline has been pretty rapid," client advocate Will Sanford said. "We're getting to a point where it makes the most sense, both in terms of the budget and as a humanitarian point to close them."

One of the arguments for closing the centers is economics. According to the state's own developmental services budget, this coming year the cost to maintain the program and keep those centers open will be more than $400,000 per patient.

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