Reforms Slow for OPS Investigations of Patient Abuse at State Facilities

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Efforts to implement new law enforcement policies and retrain staff at the Office of Protective Services are proceeding slowly following questions about oversight of patient abuse cases at California's board-and-care institutions for patients with developmental disabilities, California Watch reports (Gabrielson, California Watch, 5/2).

Background

Lawmakers are investigating OPS actions at five board-and-care institutions in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, Sonoma and Tulare counties that serve a combined 1,800 patients.

The facilities treat residents with conditions such as cerebral palsy, severe autism and intellectual disabilities.

Case files and legal documents from the last several years suggest that many incidents of patient abuse occurred at the five institutions, according to an investigation by California Watch.

The investigation found that detective and patrol officers from OPS did not properly evaluate many of the cases.

According to the report, 327 substantiated patient abuse cases and 762 unexplained patient injuries have been recorded at the institutions since 2006, but most of these incidents have not led to prosecutions (California Healthline, 3/14).

Progress of Reforms

Joe Brann -- independent overseer of OPS and former Hayward police chief -- said he still is considering the best strategy for addressing the shortcomings of detectives and patrol officers. He said, "It isn't going to make any sense to move forward on training until those policies are truly in the form that they need to be."

According to California Watch, retraining efforts might not begin for months.

Meanwhile, the state Senate's Human Services Committee last week passed legislation (SB 1522), by Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), that would require the Department of Developmental Services -- which oversees OPS -- to notify outside law enforcement of allegations of serious crimes committed against patients at the institutions, such as sexual assault (California Watch, 5/2).


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