State finds 'jeopardy' to disabled at 3 centers; funds at risk

The California Department of Public Health has taken steps to decertify three centers for the developmentally disabled from receiving Medicaid funding for some of their programs after discovering "situations involving immediate jeopardy" to patients, the agency said late Friday.

The Porterville, Lanterman and Fairview Developmental Centers had been under review throughout the last year due to "deficient practices" and "chronic systems failures in providing patient care," the department said in a statement.


It found that all three "had situations involving immediate jeopardy" to their patients; two were found to have more "immediate jeopardy situations" in the fall than earlier in the year.

The exact nature of the problems was unclear. Spokeswoman Anita Gore said documents providing more details would be posted on its website after being redacted.

The Department of Developmental Services, which oversees the institutions, has appealed against terminating the funding for "intermediate care facilities." Funding for the three centers will not be immediately affected, Gore said.

The centers "remain fully operational and services are not adversely impacted by these actions," the Department of Developmental Services said in a brief statement Friday. It added that it was "committed to making the necessary improvements that ensure appropriate and safe services at these facilities."

The Department of Public Health said it was continuing to work with the developmental services agency to find a way to continue the Medicaid certification.

"We will work with them to try to ensure that they come into compliance so that they don't have to be terminated," Gore said Friday.

If they fail to do so, the earliest that the three centers could lose some of their Medicaid funding would be 120 days after Jan. 17, the date the termination process begins, Gore said. Four hundred and thirty people receive services that would be affected by that funding.

But Gore added: "We believe they will come back into compliance."

The action follows an investigative series by the Center for Investigative Reporting, which found

of abuses at such centers by their own internal police force.

"Federal audits and investigations by disability-rights groups, as well as thousands of pages of case files, government data and lawsuits dating back to 2000, show caregivers and other facility staff allegedly involved in choking, shoving, hitting and sexually assaulting patients," reporter Ryan Gabrielson wrote. "None of these cases were prosecuted."

Another of his articles found that at the Porterville Developmental Center, one of the three targeted for possible decertification, state records showed that six patients had accused a nursing assistant of violence -- including rape, choking and battery -- but investigations were "beset by lengthy delays and shoddy work," Gabrielson wrote.