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Advocacy Director’s Report

June 21, 2015 Report

This report represents a summary of the work Disability Rights California (DRC) advocacy programs and projects reported through March 31, 2015; some activities on the legislative and press front may be more current. I would like to thank those who provided the material to make this report possible.


Highlights of DRC Coverage in Mainstream Press

Media reports covered a wide range of topics from conditions faced by inmates with disabilities to abuses at Fairview and Sonoma Developmental Centers. From October through March 31 we averaged at least one news report a month, ranging from the Los Angeles Times to the Sacramento Bee.
Highlights of our press coverage follow:

- Melinda Bird was featured in an ABC 7 Los Angeles piece about the Los Angeles County jail accessibility settlement for inmates with disabilities.


- DRC worked with Disability Rights Advocates (DRA) and others on an agreement with BART to ensure wheelchair access on BART’s Fleet of the Future. The story about the agreement appears on DRA’s web site.


- KCET Television quoted Evelyn Abouhassan in a story about legislation that ensures abuse and neglect of people with developmental disabilities is promptly reported. The bill was introduced following allegations of abuse in developmental centers.


- The LA Times reported that six years after LA County jail inmates sued, alleging horrific conditions for those in wheelchairs, Los Angeles County agreed to a settlement. The suit was filed by DRC, the ACLU and others.


- San Diego CityBeat ran an in-depth story about problems with two housing services for the homeless.  A 56-year-old woman wanted to extend her stay in a shelter beyond the 90-day limit because her disability limited her job options. Her extension was granted, thanks to help from DRC attorney Rebecca Cervenak.

- DRC’s Op-Ed about Assisted Outpatient Treatment appeared in the Sacramento Bee. We agreed with Editor Dan Morain’s view that people with mental health disabilities need more care. We pointed out that we differ from him on how counties can most effectively provide services.

- California Defender magazine ran an article by DRC Senior Attorney Michael Stortz. The story was about the professional standard for an attorney-client relationship in LPS conservatorship proceedings.

See here for press reports:
Communications Goal(s): Goal 2
DRC Staff: Melinda Bird, Leslie Morrison, Pat McConahay, Barbara Duncan, Michael Stortz, Rebecca Cervenak, Evelyn Abouhassan
Grant/Funding Source(s): Trust Fund

Press Releases

In the October April period, DRC issued five press releases:
April – Assembly Health Committee passes bill on restraints and seclusion in community facilities:
March – Students with disabilities bring complaint against Oakland Unified School district and California Department of Education:
January – California departments (Department of Rehabilitation, Department of Developmental Services and Department of Education) agree to transform employment services for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities:
October – Trouble-shooting on Election Day November 4: Disability Rights California operates a hotline for voters with disabilities:
Report recommends more law enforcement training needed to respond to individuals having mental health crisis:
Communications Goal(s): Goal 2
DRC Staff: Pat McConahay, Barbara Duncan, Leslie Morrison, Maggie Roberts, Suge Lee. Leonard Alfaro, Andrew Mudryk, Fred Nisen, Pamila Lew
Grant/Funding Source(s): Trust Fund

Website, Social Media and Publications

Website:  We had 377,917 total visits to our website for this period. Our top five visited pages were: our homepage, About Us landing page, Connect with Us page, Publications page and our open jobs posting page.
Facebook: We have 2,868 likes on Facebook. See
Twitter: We currently have 4,015 followers. See
YouTube: DRC’s YouTube channel now features 14 videos total, with plans for more coming this year. We released a total of six new videos this period: a new YouTube video providing information about our Voting Hotline phone service (96 views), a video explaining mental health parity law in plain language (263 views) and four videos filmed at DRC accessibility trainings at the Future of California Elections Conference (233 views total) covering various voting accessibility topics and information about expanding participation for voters with disabilities. See
Publications: Our top five downloaded publications were: Special Education Rights and Responsibilities,” “In-Home Supportive Services Nuts & Bolts,” “Rights under the Lanterman Act,” “Confidentiality of Mental Health Records/Information,” and “How to Obtain an Independent Educational Evaluation at Public Expense.”
Communications Goal(s): Goal 3, Objectives A, B, C, and D
DRC Staff:  Adam Borovkoff, Mimi Hoang, Barbara Duncan, Pat McConahay
Grant/Funding Source(s): Equal Access, Trust Fund


NOTE: Legislative activities are current at the time this report was prepared, however, the legislature moves quickly and things can change overnight. For the most current information about legislative activities reported here, check our home page and legislative website: and

Budget Advocacy

IHSS: We are advocating, with the support of the 35+ members of the IHSS Coalition, to end the 7% IHSS hours reduction that has been in place for almost two years. In coalition, we are pushing for the reinstatement of the IHSS Share of Cost buyout, which forced some people on IHSS to “spend down” their income to the Medically Needy level of $600, an impossible sum on which to exist in California.
DPH Timelines for Investigations: DRC is working on trailer bill language to require the Department of Public Health (DPH) to complete its investigations into the most egregious incidents of abuse and neglect in a reasonable timeframe. Many of their investigations are taking years to complete, or are dismissed without being completed. Our proposal would give the DPH 90 days to complete investigations involving a death and 120 days for incidents involving serious injury. We testified at budget hearings and met with legislative budget staff. We are currently meeting with legislative budget staff and the administration.
Developmental Disabilities: Disability Rights California are advocating for the successful closure of the developmental centers and transition of people with developmental disabilities into the community. We made the following recommendations to the administration:

- The Department of Developmental Services develop a plan for the closure of the remaining state institutions consistent with their state law obligations.  The plan should include timelines for closure of Sonoma, Fairview, and the non-secure treatment portion of Porterville. It should include flexibility to ensure a thoughtful transition process that reflects the individualized needs of developmental center residents and safe transition to quality community living arrangements. 

- Include resources in the budget to support transition activities including:

- Dedicated community placement plan funds beyond the $67 million currently authorized to allow for the development of community resources.

- Development of additional community homes and facilities to serve individuals with enduring and complex medical needs using existing models of care and to develop homes for individuals with challenging behaviors.

- Additional regional center service coordinators whose work is focused on working with consumers and their families to identify community services and supports that meet the person’s unique needs and other specialized staff including staff community resource developers.

- Appropriate use of state land such as the development of Shannon’s Mountain, the mixed use development located at Fairview Developmental Center. 

- Identification of specific state-run “can’t say no” facilities such as the current state-run crisis facilities and Canyon Springs, the state-run ICF--DD and evaluate the appropriate facility location and size.

- Quality assurance activities including reports about the use of seclusion and restraint in the community as required by AB 918 (Stone). 

- Add slots to the self-determination program authorized by Welfare and Institutions Code section 4685.7 to facilitate developmental center residents’ choice during the phase-in period.

- A strong community safety net, which can serve both those currently living in the community and those transitioning from developmental centers.

Sponsored Bills

AB 1518: Nursing Facility/Acute Hospital (NF/AH) Waiver Modernization Act of 1915: The Assembly Aging and Long Term Care Committee is the author of our AB 1518, which would make this Medi-Cal waiver a useful tool to enable Californians to receive long term services and supports in their homes and avoid unwanted, unnecessary and expensive institutional care. Over a decade and more, DRC has represented consumers who want to avoid or leave facilities but who are stymied by the restrictions of the waiver. The consumers included young people with high nursing needs aging out of the state’s Early Periodic Screening Diagnosis and Treatment (EPSDT) system, who lose half of their home nursing services when they turn 21.This comprehensive waiver fix bill passed Assembly Health 19-0 and the Aging and Long Term Care Committee 6-0 and is in the Assembly Appropriation Committee.
AB 1235 (Gipson): The biggest barrier to people leaving nursing homes is the lack of affordable accessible housing. Most people who have a home, and no family living in it, have to turn over their monthly non-SSI income towards a share of cost to the nursing home if Medi-Cal is paying for the nursing home stay. This bill would modernize California’s Home Upkeep Allowance, a Medi-Cal provision that allows certain people in nursing homes to keep their home.  This means they can leave the facility and have a home to which to return. The bill also introduces a way for people who have already lost their homes to set aside funds, which would otherwise be used as share of cost, so they can obtain and, if necessary, modify a new home to which to move. The bill is in Assembly Appropriations.
Seclusion and Restraint Data Collection: AB 918 (Stone) requires the Health and Human Services Agency (HHSA) to establish a publicly accessible data collection system to capture and report the use of seclusion and behavioral restraints in certain community facilities, primarily those serving former developmental center residents. It requires community facilities to report to DRC serious injuries or deaths occurring during or related to the use of seclusion or behavioral restraint. The bill requires the HHSA to make recommendations for facility compliance, including penalties for failure to report in a timely manner. The bill passed the Assembly Health Committee on consent and is currently in Assembly Appropriations Committee. We are working on amendments to get the bill out of the Appropriations Committee.
Public Policy Goal: Goal 1
DRC Staff: Evelyn Abouhassan Brandon Tartaglia, Leslie Morrison, Catherine Blakemore
Grant/Funding Source(s): Trust Fund, Equal Access

Other Bills

Mental Health SB 11 and SB 29 (Beall): These bills mandate additional behavioral health training for peace officers. SB 11 requires classroom training on interacting with people with mental health or intellectual disabilities and SB 29 requires 40 hours of field training. Police officers are often the first responders when a person is experiencing a crisis. They receive very little training in working with people with mental health or intellectual disabilities. Officers are currently required to receive only 6 hours of instruction on working with people with all disabilities out of 664 required training hours.
DRC’s report, “An Ounce of Prevention: Law Enforcement Training and Mental Health Crisis Intervention” called for more law enforcement training and makes recommendations based on successful crisis intervention/de-escalation programs from around the state and country. We have been working with the author’s office to ensure the bills are guided by the recommendations in our report. We’ve supported these bills through support letters, testimony at hearings, and visits to legislative offices. Both bills are in Senate Appropriations Committee.
Voting SB 589 (Block)—Support
Existing law regulates the terms and conditions of conservatorships and requires a court investigator, among other things, to determine whether the proposed conservatee is capable of completing a voter registration form and if they cannot the person may be disqualified from voting.
SB 589 would require the court investigator to determine whether the proposed conservatee is capable of completing a voter registration form with or without appropriate disability related assistance.
This bill follows up on changes made last year in AB 1311 (Bradford 2014) prohibiting a person, including a conservatee, from being disqualified from voting because the person signs a voter registration form with a mark or a cross, signs with a signature stamp, or completes the form with the assistance of another person. But the right to reasonable accommodations was not included. SB 589 will make it clear a person with a disability is entitled to reasonable accommodations in completing a voter registration form. The bill has passed out of its policy committees and is on the Senate floor.
Mental Health AB 1300 (Ridley-Thomas)—Neutral
This bill would make revisions to the Lanterman-Petris-Short Act (LPS), particularly the procedures for detention for evaluation and treatment under Section 5150.
The California Hospital Association (CHA), has described the primary objectives of the bill as follows:

- Clearly articulate when a 5150 hold starts, stops, is discontinued, and who may perform these decision-making functions;

- Increase the emphasis on the prompt provision of services in both LPS-designated and non-LPS designated facilities;

- Clarify a patient’s involuntary 5150 hold status when receiving involuntary psychiatric treatment out of their county of residence, across county lines and when, admitted into a medical floor of a hospital;

- Incorporate the use of tele-health for involuntary treatment, assessment and evaluation purposes; and

- Create optional county mental health “local or regional liaisons” to facilitate increased communication between hospitals and community services.

DRC has been working with CHA on their objectives by reviewing drafts and providing edits. DRC reviewed the drafts with a view to protecting patients’ rights and clarifying ambiguities in the bill. Almost all of DRC’s proposed amendments and edits have been accepted. DRC is currently working with other stakeholders on other proposed amendments addressing immunity provisions. This bill is in the Assembly Appropriations Committee.
Access Legislation: A series of bills have been introduced which attempt to change access laws and limit the right to sue/recover for access violations. We have been meeting with the authors of these bills and legislative staff to discuss our concerns with these measures.  We have sent position letters and testified in committee.
We oppose these bills because federal and state access laws have been on the books for decades and these bills single out people with disabilities, alone among all groups with civil rights protections, to jump through legal hoops before being able to have their civil rights violations addressed.  Additionally, people with disabilities have already made many concessions and given up some of their rights to address business community claims of purported abuse, through narrowly tailored legislation including SB 1608 (Corbett, 2008) and SB 1186 (Steinberg, 2012).

AB 52 (Gray)Oppose
AB 52 reduces legal responsibility for violation of disability discrimination laws by changing existing statutory penalties from a minimum of $1,000 to a maximum of $1,000. It would do so for businesses that have passed inspection by a local building department at any time within five years prior to the complaint, regardless of whether that building department had any knowledge of disability access requirements, if the business corrected the violation within 180 days of the complaint—tripling the current allowance of 60 days. In addition, the bill reduces legal accountability for business owners who have taken no steps to achieve compliance with access laws as long as they fix the violation 180 days after they are sued. The bill is now a two year bill and was held in the Assembly Judiciary Committee. 

AB 54 (Olsen)Neutral
AB 54 required a person deprived of access to a place of public accommodation because of disability to provide the owner or other responsible party with a written notice of the allegations and alleged access barriers on which the claim is based at least 60 days prior to the filing an action. If this notice was not provided, or if the notice was provided and the business removed the barriers within 60 days, the individual would not be able to recover the statutory penalty that other discrimination victims are entitled to recover. AB 52 was recently amended to provide a tax credit for business owners to offset a portion of obtaining an inspection by a certified access specialist, who is intended to ensure the business is accessible. This bill has been amended and only provides tax credits to address access violations.  The bill was held in the Assembly Revenue and Taxation Committee.

AB 1468 (Baker)—Oppose

AB 1468 sought to provide litigation protections for defendants who correct construction-related accessibility violations. The bill provided that a closeout letter from the Division of the State Architect certifying that buildings to which the letter applies shall serve as presumptive evidence that these buildings comply with state and federal access laws. We opposed this bill because school districts and community colleges, which receive federal funds, have heightened obligations to ensure program access to people with disabilities; further, they are required under federal law (Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act) to evaluate their programs and facilities to develop plans for correcting identified access problems. Providing leverage to postpone or delay access, as is being proposed by this bill, should not be the approach endorsed by the State. Additionally, the California Government Code §4452 currently gives educational institutions and community colleges 90 days to remedy a construction access violation. This bill is in conflict as it would only provide 60 days to make corrections. This bill was held in the Assembly Judiciary Committee and not heard.

SB 67 (Galgiani)Oppose
SB 67 would limit recovery to injunctive relief and reasonable attorney’s fees as deemed appropriate by the court for a construction related accessibility claim, if the defendant is a small business. The bill would also extend the period for correcting construction-related violations that are the basis of a claim from 60 days to 120 days of being served with the complaint, reducing a defendant’s minimum statutory damage liability to $1,000. This bill was held in the Senate Judiciary Committee and was not heard.

SB 251 (Roth) - Oppose

This bill includes notice and right to cure provisions. For a business inspected by a CASp, the business will not be liable for construction related violations if the problem is corrected within 90 days of receiving the written CASp report. This provision restricts all liability, including injunctive relief and actual damages and will lead to fraud and delays in access corrections.

The bill states a business will not be liable for “minor matter” violations if corrected within 30 days of service of a summons and complaint or receipt of written notice of the violation. A “minor matter” is defined as a violation concerning interior and exterior signage, the color and condition of parking lot paint striping, and truncated domes. This provision would also restrict all liability, including injunctive relief and actual damages. In the case of truncated domes, for example, there could be actual harm experienced by the individual. We have been working with other disability groups to oppose these provisions in the bill.  The bill includes some provisions that will improve access such as more training and information for businesses. The bill passed out of its policy committees and is now in Senate Appropriations Committee.

AB 1230 (Gomez)—Support: AB 1230 enacts the California Americans with Disabilities Act Small Business Compliance Financing Authority Act to establish a self-sustaining program to provide loans to small businesses to retrofit existing facilities to comply with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The bill would transfer $50,000,000 from the General Fund to the proposed California Americans with Disabilities Act Small Business Compliance Financing Authority Fund. It would require continuous appropriated funding and require the authority to use the fund for its purposes. We support the bill because it proactively creates a self-sustaining program to provide loans for access compliance by small business. This bill is in the Assembly Appropriations Committee.
Assisted Outpatient Treatment (AOT) Legislation

AB 59 (Waldron)—Oppose
AB 59 removes the prohibition that a county must not reduce voluntary mental health services when implementing AOT programs. The bill increases the maximum duration of an AOT order from six to twelve months, broadens the group of people who can request an AOT petition and removes the program’s sunset provision. This bill failed in the Assembly Judiciary Committee.

AB 1193 (Eggman)—Oppose
AB 1193 replaces the requirement that the county board of supervisors adopt an AOT program with a requirement that the board of supervisors implement the program unless they choose to opt out. The bill also broadens the group of people who can request an AOT petition, and extends the sunset date of January 1, 2017, to January 1, 2022. This bill is in the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

AOT is a controversial program with significant implications for individual rights. To the extent it continues to be authorized in California, counties should retain local control and AOT should be at their election; counties should not be allowed to opt out and voluntary services should not be reduced. We believe that voluntary services are more effective and should be expanded. We drafted letters in opposition, met with legislative staff, and testified in committee as to our concerns.

Developmental Disabilities Legislation

SB 639 (Stone) – Support if Amended: SB 639 requires the Department of Developmental Services (DDS) to submit a plan to the Legislature by April 1, 2016, to close the Sonoma Developmental Center and the Fairview Developmental Center.  The bill also requires closure of both developmental centers by December 31, 2018.
DRC supports closure but believes that the bill needs to be amended to address the following:

- DRC recommends expanding the closure plan to include the non-Secure Treatment Programs at Porterville Developmental Center. These units are similar to the units at Sonoma Developmental Center and Fairview Developmental Center and contribute to the disproportionate spending in the disability development system. 

- We suggest changing the closure date. We support flexibility to ensure a thoughtful transition process that reflects the individualized needs of developmental center residents and ensures their safe transition to quality community living arrangements. 

- We recommend closure plans developed by the DDS identify dedicated Community Placement Plan funding so resident needs are appropriately assessed, and sufficient funding is available for the development of housing and other community resources.

- We support the concept of placement priority for individuals in decertified units. We recommend explicit language that people in non-decertified units maintain their right to ask to move to the community through the individual program planning process, the court with jurisdiction over the placement, through a writ of habeas corpus, or by any other appropriate means.

- Since the intent of the bill is to implement the roadmap produced by the Developmental Center Task Force, we want to ensure that the Task Force recommendations are implemented.

We are working with legislative staff, meeting with committee members, drafting position letters and plan to testify in committee. The bill was held in Senate Human Services Committee.
SB 644 (Hancock) – Support if Amended: This bill would not require a person with a developmental disability to take the written examination or readiness evaluation to qualify for employment under the state LEAP (Limited Examination and Appointment Program) program. The bill requires instead that the competitive examination consist of a 1,024 hour state agency internship.
While we support the goals and intent of the legislation, we have concerns that the bill limits choice by requiring an individual with a developmental disability to participate in the internship program when they may want to take the LEAP examination. As the bill is currently drafted there is no choice. We are also concerned that the duration of the internship may be too long as some individuals may demonstrate they are qualified in a shorter period of time. We are currently working with the sponsors, author’s office, and stakeholders to address these concerns. The bill is on suspense in the Senate Appropriations Committee.
Public Policy Goal: Goal 1
DRC Staff: Brandon Tartaglia, Pamila Lew, Leslie Morrison, Evelyn Abouhassan, Margaret Johnson
Grant/Funding Source(s): Trust Fund, Equal Access

Outreach and Education

Disability Capitol Action Day: This year is the 12th anniversary of the annual Disability Capitol Action Day (DCAD), and the 25th anniversary of the enactment of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). We are planning DCAD, which will take place on May 20, 2015. Our focus will be on the importance of the ADA, how it changed the lives of people with disabilities, and what still needs to be accomplished.
Since the 2014 DCAD, DRC and the rest of the Disability Action Coalition (DAC), which plans the event, created a mission statement and bylaws to better guide our work and ensure the work is true to the wishes of people with disabilities. DRC staff was elected DAC Chair.
We are working on the logistical and legislative planning for the event with our advocacy partners, including People First of California, the California Association of Public Authorities, and the California Foundation for Independent Living Centers. We will have a legislative information booth and encourage attendees to make visits to their legislators to discuss the coalition priorities, as well as issues affecting them personally.
Public Policy Goals: Goal 2
DRC Staff: Brandon Tartaglia
Grant/Funding Source(s): Equal Access


Peer Self Advocacy Group Successes

New PSA Self-Advocacy Groups Members Take Their First Steps Toward Self-Advocacy: In February 2015, we helped start a self-advocacy group on the T-12 unit, which is a substance abuse recovery program at Napa State Hospital for people under forensic commitments. Residents were pleased to finally have self-advocacy services available to them, since people on this treatment unit were not allowed to attend the PSA Self-Help Office. Members discussed and decided on ground rules for the meetings and named their group “Our Group,” which reflects the philosophy of the PSA program that the self-advocacy groups belong to the members.  This was their first step toward learning about self-advocacy and the skills they need to ask for what they want.
Peer-Self-Advocacy Goal(s): Goal 1, Objective A (Self-Advocacy Groups)
DRC Staff:  Debi Davis
Grant/Funding Source(s):  PAIMI

New Self-Advocacy Groups Form throughout the State:
We just started three more self-advocacy groups, two in the Central San Joaquin Valley and one at the Wellness Center at the county hospital in Los Angeles. One group meets at the Oak Wellness Center in Hanford, where approximately 15-20 people have been attending each week. Another is held in the community group room at Anchors Apartments, which are permanent housing units rented by mental health consumers who have been discharged from psychiatric facilities to live in the community. The third group in Los Angeles is for monolingual Spanish speakers. Members of these groups have begun learning about self-advocacy skills and strategies.
Peer-Self-Advocacy Goal(s): Goal 1, Objective A (Self-Advocacy Groups)
DRC Staff:  David Solis, Senobia Pichardo
Grant/Funding Source(s):  PAIMI

The WRAP Plan Helps Group Members Cope with Difficult Situations: We
worked with group members in the OSHPSA self-advocacy group in San Francisco on the WRAP (Wellness Recovery Action Plan), which teaches people how to identify their triggers to effectively respond to stressful situations.  Responding positively to triggers helps people avoid losing their homes or being institutionalized.  For example, a group member said he was feeling stressed because he was not getting along with a housemate. Group members helped him identify different strategies to help him deal with the situation. As a result he was able to maintain his living situation.
Peer-Self-Advocacy Goal(s): Goal 1, Objective A (Self-Advocacy Groups)
DRC Staff:  Leo Alfaro
Grant/Funding Source(s):  PAIMI
CalMHSA Mental Health Parity Work

Spreading the Word about the Right to Mental Health Parity:
With funding from the California Mental Health Services Authority (CalMHSA), we continued work to reduce stigma and discrimination by presenting outreaches and trainings throughout the state to teach people about the federal and state laws governing mental health parity.  People have a right to receive health insurance coverage for mental health services that is equivalent to the coverage people receive for treatment for physical illnesses. Several outreaches were conducted, including at the “Our Lives, Our Voices Conference” in Menlo Park, the Each Mind Matters “Together Against Stigma” conference in San Francisco, the BLACCC community forum in Los Angeles and the Cultural and Diversity Fair in Orange County. Numerous fact sheets were distributed, and many people requested copies of the DRC developed Parity Toolkit. They also found the infographic poster designed by DRC staff helpful in understanding parity.
Parity training was provided at the Humboldt County Library, at the “Ventanilla De Salud” (or “Health Window”) at the Mexican Consulates in Fresno and San Francisco, the NAMI chapter in San Francisco, the Active Minds chapter at UC Santa Barbara and for several self-advocacy groups in the Los Angeles area. Attendees had questions about the parity laws and the process for filing complaints against their insurance companies. This information helped several attendees advocate for and file complaints to receive parity in choosing doctors and obtaining authorization for prescription medications that work for them.
For more information about our mental health parity work:
Peer-Self-Advocacy Goal(s): Goal 2, Objective A (Systems Advocacy)
DRC Staff:  David Solis, Leo Alfaro, Senobia Pichardo, Rob Chittenden, Robyn Gantsweg
Grant/Funding Source(s):  CalMHSA