State leader reviews disabled care system, families see changes

Assemblyman Jim Frazier, who represents parts of East Contra Costa County and Solano County, is conducting a statewide review of California's developmentally disabled care system amid complaints by families that some severe abuse and neglect cases are not being properly investigated.

Since February, 2 Investigates has exposed numerous cases of abuse. One involved a young man with intellectual and behavioral challenges who was forced to sleep on a mattress so urine-soaked it rotted the box spring. In another case, a female caretaker was sexually assaulted by a client who was already facing two rape charges.

Parents and former regional center employees told 2 Investigates last month a lack of oversight of regional centers is resulting in these cases. Regional centers are private non-profit corporations contracted by California's Department of Developmental Services (DDS) to find and monitor care for more than 330,000 people with disabilities like autism, Down syndrome and cerebral palsy. One regional center executive director said the system is strained by a lack of funding and low pay rate for service providers. He and DDS officials have said the health and safety of their clients is a priority and efforts to increase funding are underway.

Currently, Frazier heads the Select Committee on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. The committee is encouraging families of clients and service providers to complete a Regional Center Survey so his team can gather data on the state's 21 regional centers. A staff member said this kind of information can help create legislative and policy solutions.

"The Select Committee's mission is to help ensure Californians who have Intellectual or Developmental Disabilities (I/DD) and their families and caretakers receive the services they deserve," Frazier wrote in a letter to survey participants.

In addition to this statewide effort, three of the parents featured in 2 Investigates' June report said their loved one is now receiving better services and reassurances as a result of the investigation. Ray Galindo from Vallejo said his adult son finally received care services after nearly six years without any. Mitch Freese from Winsor, whose son was the client who was forced to live in sub-human conditions, said the regional center director in Napa came up to him and promised that would never happen again under his watch. Marie Doboue and her seven-year-old son Nolan from Vallejo also said the investigation has changed their lives for the better as well. Nolan, she said, was coming home with mysterious injuries and now a regional center manager is working one on one with her to get answers.

"It changed a lot. I have to say thank you because my case manager called me and mentioned the report. Now she is fighting hard for Nolan so I can go back to work," Doboue said.

But, Deboue said, the fight is far from over.

"We still have to fight. We still have to keep pushing."

Candice Nguyen is an investigative reporter with KTVU Fox 2. Email her comments or story tips to