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Advocacy Director's Report

May 24, 2016

This report is a summary of the work Disability Rights California (DRC) advocacy programs and projects reported October 1, 2015 through March 31, 2016; some activities on the legislative and press front may be more current.


COMMUNICATIONS


Highlights of DRC Coverage in Mainstream Media

During this period DRC’s primary news coverage centered around three proactive media issues: 1) mental health in California jails; 2) a lawsuit against the Pasadena School District regarding equal education for students with disabilities; and 3) demands that the state take action against a Contra Costa County school for its abusive treatment of students with disabilities.
Highlights of our press coverage follow:
October
-    Two media outlets – Rooted in Rights (Disability Rights Washington online newsletter) and The Intercept (online news outlet that focuses on in depth and investigative pieces) – ran stories about our reports regarding mental health abuse in the Sacramento County Jail.
-    DRC was quoted in a Kaiser Health News story about the new Aid-in-Dying law; Board member Jennifer Restle was interviewed for the Orange County Register’s story about the medical community bracing for “right to die” law to go into effect.

December

- The Sacramento News and Review ran the story, “DRC finds inmates with disabilities subjected to excessive solitary confinement in Sacramento County Jail.”

January

-    The Modesto Bee picked up Executive Director Catherine Blakemore’s letter to the editor against Americans with Disabilities Act lawsuit reform.
-    EdSource and the Contra Costa Times ran stories about DRC demanding state education officials take action against Tobinworld School in Antioch for its treatment of students with disabilities. Attorney Maggie Roberts was quoted.

February

-    Two news outlets ran stories about DRC’s report concerning mental health care in the Santa Barbara County jail – the Santa Barbara Independent newspaper and KEYT TV.
-    The Pasadena Star-News, the American School & University and KPCC radio ran stories about DRC’s lawsuit against the Pasadena Unified School District over treatment of children with disabilities.

March

-    The Torrance Daily Breeze ran a story about our successful court ruling over accessible parking for a DRC client. The story included a photo of the client and attorney Autumn Elliott.
-    The Santa Maria Sun ran a story about DRC’s report about mental health in the Santa Barbara County jail. Attorney Melinda Bird is quoted.
-    California Healthline included Clients’ Rights Advocate Jennifer Alfaro’s testimony in a story about a legislative hearing over closure plans for the developmental centers.
See here for press stories: http://www.disabilityrightsca.org/news/press.htm
Communications Goal(s): Goal 2
DRC Staff: Jennifer Alfaro, Melinda Bird, Candis Bowles, Autumn Elliott Pat McConahay, Jennifer Restle, Maggie Roberts
Grant/Funding Source(s): PADD, PAIMI, PAIR, EA, Trust Fund


Press Releases

In the October – March period, DRC issued five press releases:
October – Disability Rights California releases report finding excessive solitary confinement and inadequate mental health care in Sacramento County jail: http://www.disabilityrightsca.org/news/2015NewsAboutUs/20151029JailReport.htm
January – Disability Rights California’s response to Governor Brown’s 2016-17 budget plan: http://www.disabilityrightsca.org/news/2016NewsAboutUs/20160107PressReleaseGovBudget.htm
February – DRC lawsuit alleges Pasadena schools discriminate against students with mental health disabilities: http://www.disabilityrightsca.org/news/2016NewsAboutUs/20160217PasadenaSchools.htm
Disability Rights California report finds prisoners in the Santa Barbara Jail held in solitary, denied mental health care – Sheriff agrees to limit reforms: http://www.disabilityrightsca.org/news/2016NewsAboutUs/20160223SantaBarbaraJailReport.htm
Disability Rights California issues findings of investigations into San Diego and San Francisco juvenile hall conditions: http://www.disabilityrightsca.org/news/2016NewsAboutUs/20160225SanFranciscoandSanDiegoReports.htm
Communications Goal(s): Goal 2
DRC Staff: Melinda Bird, Candis Bowles, Pat McConahay
Grant/Funding Source(s): PADD, PAIMI, PAIR, EA, Trust Fund


Website, Social Media and Publications

Website: Our web visits stayed fairly consistent this period at 408,168 total visits to our website (298,036 unique visitors). Our top five visited pages were: About Us, Publications, Jobs at DRC, Connect with Us, and Office of Clients’ Rights Advocacy homepage.
Social Media: DRC’s social media channels continue to do well and continue to grow in popularity. We currently have 5,202 followers on Twitter and 4,104 likes on Facebook. See https://twitter.com/DisabilityCA and https://www.facebook.com/DisabilityRightsCalifornia.
YouTube: We released two new videos on our YouTube channel at the end of this period: What are Psychiatric and Emotional Support Animals, and Psychiatric Service Animals in Public Places. These two videos have already received 384 views. See https://www.youtube.com/user/DisabilityRightsCA?feature=watch
Publications: Our top five downloaded publications were all in English: “Special Education Rights and Responsibilities,” “In-Home Supportive Services Nuts & Bolts,” “Rights under the Lanterman Act,” “Confidentiality of Mental Health Records/Information,” and “Reasonable Accommodations Under Section 8.”
Our top five most downloaded non-English publications for this period were: “In-Home Supportive Services Nuts & Bolts,” in Spanish, “My Responsibilities as the Organizational Representative Payee: A Best Practices Guide” in Spanish, “Is the School Retaliating? A Guide to Your Rights” in Spanish, “You Can Get ILS Services Even If You Live with Your Family” in Japanese and “In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) Program Care Supplement Eligibility Criteria” in Chinese.
We continued work on a language access plan for publications. We have already gathered feedback from staff Based on that feedback we will prioritize translation of publications through the end of this fiscal year and create an ongoing list of priority languages for publication translations.
Our web redesign project RFP was reposted and RFP proposals are due May 31, 2016. We are analyzing web content and creating mockup solutions for the chosen web designer to use.
Communications Goal(s): Goal 3, Objectives A, B, C, and D
DRC Staff: Adam Borovkoff, Mimi Hoang, Margaret Johnson, Pat McConahay
Grant/Funding Source(s): Equal Access, Trust Fund


LEGISLATIVE ACTIVITIES

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


Budget Advocacy

The Governor released his May Revision of the January budget for 2016-2017, on May 13. An earlier DRC memo discusses the Governor’s January proposals and may be found at: http://www.disabilityrightsca.org/legislature/budget/2016/BudgetSummary20160218.pdf.
The Governor noted in the May Revise that revenues are below the amounts forecasted in January and therefore the surplus identified in the January budget is less. The Governor put most of the surplus to increasing the “rainy day fund.” His revised budget doesn’t change the program proposals he made in the January budget but rather reduces the surplus and includes less discretionary funds for program increases.
While not all inclusive, below are some of the budget proposals impacting people with disabilities and our reactions to them: 1) improvements in developmental disabilities community services funding, and a need for general funds because Sonoma Developmental Center has lost more of its federal funding; 2) funds for case management services to assist a small number of regional center clients who are no longer eligible for the waiver services to identify private insurance from whom they can receive their behavioral health therapy; 3) Supplemental Security Income (SSI)/State Supplementary Payment (SSP) benefit increase (from $889 to $905 for an individual and $1,496 to $1,539 for a couple); 4) the In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) 7% reduction is restored through June 30, 2019, and the revised budget includes funding to implement the two exemptions to the provider workweek limits that are part of the overtime rules; 5) expansion of jail‐based competency treatment programs and increase of state hospital incompetent to stand trial beds rather than fund alternative community and intermediate treatment options; and 6) endorsement of the Senate Pro Temp De León’s plan for housing and other services for people with mental health disabilities who are currently homeless.
For additional information on the May Revise, please check our website at: http://www.disabilityrightsca.org/legislature/budget/index.htm.
Additionally, we suggest that you look at the following links:
-    The California Budget and Policy Center: http://calbudgetcenter.org/
-    The Legislative Analysts’ Office (LAO): http://www.lao.ca.gov
-    The Governor’s budget documents: http://www.ebudget.ca.gov
Public Policy Goal: Goal 1
DRC Staff: Evelyn Abouhassan, Catherine Blakemore, Leslie Morrison, Brandon Tartaglia
Grant/Funding Source(s): Trust Fund, Equal Access


Sponsored Legislation

AB 1235 (Gipson): AB 1235 modernizes California’s Home Upkeep Allowance, a Medi-Cal provision allowing certain people in nursing homes to keep their home so when they leave the facility they have a home to return to. The bill also introduces a way for people who have already lost their homes to set aside funds so they can obtain and modify a new home. The bill moved with almost no opposition through the Assembly and the Senate’s policy committee. Senate Appropriations assigned a high cost to the bill, causing it to be held in that committee. The Administration agrees the Home Upkeep Allowance should be improved. In our first negotiation with them, the Administration expressed an interest in raising the allowance from $208 to the SSI level. We are still in negotiations and hope to move them to a higher amount.
AB 1518: Nursing Facility/Acute Hospital (NF/AH) Waiver Modernization Act of 2015: This measure makes this Medi-Cal waiver a useful tool so Californians can receive long term services and supports in their own homes and avoid unwanted, unnecessary and expensive institutional care. Disability Rights California (DRC) represents consumers who want to avoid or leave facilities but are stymied by waiver restrictions. The consumers include young people with high nursing needs aging out of the state’s Early Periodic Screening Diagnosis and Treatment system, who lose half of their home nursing services when they turn 21. This comprehensive waiver fix bill passed through the Assembly committees and floor with no opposition. The Senate Appropriations Committee reduced the provisions and impact of the bill, and it passed as amended. However, it became clear it would be vetoed, as the administration thinks the bill conflicts with its own calendar for renewing the waiver. We made it a two-year bill, and are involved in the state’s stakeholder process about the waiver renewal terms. DRC is a member of the state’s NF/AH Waiver Technical Experts workgroup, which met three times. The state will release its draft Waiver Renewal in May. We will analyze and comment on the draft as well as participate and help organize participation of others in the scheduled stakeholder meetings around the state. We expect that the renewal will improve on the current waiver. We also expect that it will fall short of our recommendations.
AB 488 (Gonzalez): The Fair Employment and Housing Act prohibits harassment and discrimination by employers when the discrimination is based on race, color, religion, sex, gender, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, ancestry, mental or physical disability, medical condition, age, pregnancy, denial of medical and family care leave, pregnancy disability leave, or retaliation for protesting illegal discrimination. Under the Government Code, “employee” does not include individuals employed under a special license in a nonprofit sheltered workshop or rehabilitation facility. This leaves people with disabilities employed in these settings no recourse for discrimination by their employer.
Update: The bill was double referred to the Senate Labor Committee and the Senate Judiciary Committee. It will be heard in the Senate Judiciary Committee in May or June. The Department of Developmental Services provided technical assistance and amendment language to further clarify that individuals in sheltered work environments are employees under state law. We amended the bill to clarify that an employer will not be liable for disability discrimination for paying a sheltered workshop worker subminimum wage so long as the employer complies with other state labor laws. A sheltered workshop employee would still be protected from discrimination based on race, gender, religion and other protected categories in state law. We are working with provider groups to address concerns about increased liability if this bill is enacted. We are also working with the Department of Fair Housing and Employment to address cost concerns. The State Council on Developmental Disabilities is co-sponsoring the bill with DRC.
AB 2873 (Thurmond): SB 1608 (Corbett, 2008) required at least one building inspector in each local jurisdiction be CASp certified. A certified access specialist (CASp) is a consultant/inspector who has been tested and certified by the state of California Division of State Architect as an expert in disability access laws. SB 1608 sets up a process whereby business owners can voluntarily hire a CASp specialist to inspect their buildings to ensure compliance with disability access standards and obtain an inspection report.
In our bill (AB 2873), we propose increasing the number of existing local building inspectors who are CASp certified. Originally in our platform, we proposed increasing the overall number of CASp certified local building inspectors based on the population of the jurisdiction. Given the cost of such a proposal, we decided rather to train and certify more local building inspectors as CASps.
Our bill requires that inspectors receive additional training and certification in federally subsidized housing access requirements. Currently, CASps are not provided training sufficient for them to evaluate the accessibility of subsidized housing. The costs for training and certifying existing local building inspectors would be paid for by increasing the business licensing fees.
Update: Representatives from the building industry and the California Association of Building Officials (CALBO), while supporting what we are trying to do in concept, expressed concerns about: 1) the implementation date; 2) whether increasing business licensing fees generates enough revenue (they would rather increase fees on building permits); and 3) whether it makes sense to have all existing local building inspectors be CASp certified, or just those inspectors responsible for reviewing projects and plans that are subject to the access laws. We met with stakeholders and discussed these concerns. We are continuing to work with them to address these issues. The bill passed the Assembly Judiciary Committee and is on suspense in Assembly Appropriations. We are working on amendments to get it out of this committee.


Progress on Other 2016 Bill Ideas

Accessibility in Government Funded Housing: In the 2013-2014 session we sponsored SB 550, to increase accessibility in multi-family housing built with public funds. It died in Appropriations. We approached another legislator about inserting access language, but without success. Because of our new state bar housing-related grant funded with Bank of America mortgage fraud settlement funds, Dara Schur, will be taking the lead in educating other disability advocates and forming an informed and cohesive coalition to advocate for both better laws and better enforcement of current laws. The Arc and the State Council on Developmental Disabilities want to participate in that coalition.
In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) Share of Cost Buy-out Program: Until 2009, there was a share of cost buy-out, which meant the state was paying the share of cost for some IHSS recipients who had income above Supplemental Security Income (SSI) level, enabling them to keep their income to live on. The repeal of the IHSS share of cost in 2009 left some IHSS consumers with income way below the inadequate SSI amount – the $600 medically needy amount. This left these consumers – who should be at less risk for institutionalization – at more risk and penalized for having income for which they may have worked and should be able to keep. It impedes the chances for people to leave institutions if they have only $600 a month to live on.
We want to restore the buy-out; the IHSS coalition, of which DRC is a member has made this a priority. We tried to identify accurate figures on the cost of restoring the buy-out to move ahead with a request for restoration. Neither we nor the Legislative Analyst Office has been able to get reliable costs. This proposal was discussed at a recent Assembly budget hearing on IHSS issues and will be discussed at the Senate hearing as well. Lacking a reliable cost estimate, and with the enormous added cost of IHSS overtime and minimum wage increases, will make it challenging to restore this year.
Public Policy Goal: Goal 1
DRC Staff: Evelyn Abouhassan, Catherine Blakemore, Deborah Doctor, Leslie Morrison
Grant/Funding Source(s): Trust Fund, Equal Access


Other Bills

Access Legislation

SB 269 (Roth) – Oppose: This bill is essentially the same as SB 251 (Roth, 2015) vetoed by the Governor last year, except that it removes the tax credit provisions to help businesses come into compliance with access laws and narrows the size of businesses covered from 100 or fewer employees to 50 or fewer employees.
The bill establishes a rebuttable presumption to be overcome by the plaintiff, that certain "technical violations" do not cause a person difficulty, discomfort or embarrassment for the purpose of awarding minimum statutory damages. This applies when the defendant has, within 15 days of notice of the violation, corrected all of the technical violations. The technical violations include: the lack of exterior signs; the order in which parking signs are placed or the exact location or wording of parking signs; the color of parking signs; the color of parking lot striping; faded, chipped, damaged or deteriorated paint in otherwise fully compliant parking lot; and the presence or condition of detectable warning surfaces (also known as "truncated domes") on ramps, except where the ramp is part of a pedestrian path of travel that intersects a vehicular lane or other hazardous area.
DRC staff provided a lot of advocacy to change the business size covered under this bill from 100 or fewer employers to 50 or fewer employees. As a result language in the bill protects a business with 50 or fewer employees from liability for minimum statutory damages in an access claim for 120 days after the business obtains a CASp inspection. This allows 96% of businesses in California to identify and correct access violations without liability for damages.
If the defendant fails to correct the violations noted in the CASp report within 120 days, the defendant cannot receive a reduction of minimum statutory damages for uncorrected violations.
Additionally, when a building permit is required for the repairs that cannot be completed within 120 days and the business is in the process of correcting the violations identified in the CASp report, the business gets additional time of up to 180 days to make repairs.
We opposed this bill because it treats individuals with disabilities differently than other protected classes. It narrows their civil rights and their ability to collect civil rights damages for access violations. This bill has been signed by the Governor.
AB 2093 (Steinorth) – Neutral: Originally, AB 2093 required a commercial property owner to provide the tenant with a copy of the disability access inspection certificate and Certified Access Specialist (CASp) inspection report for every rental agreement executed on or after January 1, 2017. If these reports were not provided, the property owner could not prohibit a CASp inspection of the premises at the tenant’s expense.
While we agreed steps should be taken to ensure access and educational resources be made available; we disagreed with bill provisions that shift responsibility for inspection and repair onto the tenant. The commercial property owner should be responsible for CASp inspections and repairs, unless the tenant is responsible for the lack of access. Commercial owners have more resources than tenants and are in a better position to ensure access compliance.
We worked with the Assembly Judiciary Committee staff to amend the bill. Unfortunately, the best we could do was to establish a presumption that repairs necessary to correct access violations are the responsibility of the owner unless otherwise agreed to by the parties. The bill grants a tenant the opportunity to review any CASp report prior to execution of a lease. The bill is currently in the Senate.
SB 1406 (Mendoza) – Neutral: State law requires an attorney who sends a complaint about an access violation to send a copy to the California Commission on Disability Access (CCDA) within five business days and to notify the commission of judgment, settlement, or dismissal of the complaint within five business days. SB 1406 requires an attorney who sends a complaint about an access violation to a public entity, such as a community college, to send a copy of the complaint to the commission and to notify the commission of judgment, settlement, or dismissal of the complaint. While we are neutral on the bill, we have concerns that we shared with Senate Judiciary staff.
Unlike small businesses, governmental entities have long standing self-evaluation requirements. Public entities, such as colleges, have the resources and sophistication to ensure access on campuses. Though we support gathering data about access litigation, we do not believe counting lawsuits will help determine whether or not school districts and community college districts are complying with the law. We suggested the bill require public entities, such as school districts and community college districts, to provide their active (or most recent) transition plans to the CCDA. This bill passed the Senate Judiciary Committee and is in Senate Appropriations Committee.


Developmental Disabilities Legislation

AB 2809 (Rodriguez) – Support: As part of the fiscal crisis in 2009, certain regional center services were suspended or limited. AB 2809 requires regional centers to provide clear, non-technical written information in a consumer’s or family’s native language regarding the process of obtaining exemptions for certain suspended or limited services including: social recreation, non-medical therapies, camping, transportation, education services for consumers ages 3 to 17, and respite.
The bill requires regional centers to provide support to consumers in the appeal process while they try to obtain medical or dental services from a generic agency or private insurance and requires regional centers to pay for medical and dental services during this time.
AB 2809 makes intensive behavior intervention services more accessible for some families, by considering hardship factors when determining the extent of parental participation in behavioral intervention services in order to qualify for services.
Finally, the legislation requires regional centers to give a list of services they provide; a list of services the consumer received the preceding year; and information about the appeal and complaint process in the native language at the start of the Individual Program Plan (IPP) meeting. At the end of an IPP meeting, regional centers have to provide a written list of the services agreed upon during the meeting as well as those services yet to be agreed upon, in the consumer’s native language.
AB 2809 encourages equal access to regional center services while supporting self-advocacy for ethnically diverse and underserved communities. The bill is being sponsored by Public Counsel and the Special Needs Network. The bill is in the Assembly Appropriations Committee.


Education Legislation

AB 2091 (Lopez) – Support: State law requires local educational agencies (LEAs) to make sure parents or guardians understand individualized education program (IEP) meetings. This includes arranging for an interpreter for those who are deaf or whose native language is not English. AB 2091 requires a LEA to provide translation services by a qualified interpreter for any document discussed at an IEP team meeting, including the IEP. Documents must be translated within 30 days of a request and before the parent or guardian consents to the IEP. The bill will require translated copies of any related standardized forms or other standardized information the LEA maintains. Because this bill ensures parents and guardians receive information in a language they understand, we support the legislation. The bill is currently in the Assembly Appropriations Committee.


Abuse and Neglect Legislation

AB 2606 (Grove) – Support: The Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Act requires a law enforcement agency that receives a report of child abuse or neglect for a child in a child care or community care facility to report it to the agency that licenses the facility. The same is not true for crimes against seniors, dependent adults, or people with disabilities.
AB 2606 requires a law enforcement agency that receives or makes a report of a crime against a senior, dependent adult, or person with a disability that is perpetrated by a licensed, permitted, credentialed professional that provides services to these groups, to provide a copy of that report to the state agency which issued the credential, license, or permit. The licensing, permitting, or credentialing agency can then decide to take appropriate disciplinary action. DRC will follow up with sponsors to ensure that only substantiated reports of a crime are referred to licensing or permitting agencies. DRC supports this legislation as it provides people with disabilities additional protections against abuse. The bill is in Assembly Appropriations Committee.


Mental Health Legislation

AB 1300 (Ridley-Thomas) – Oppose unless amended: Under existing law, when a person is a danger to self or others, or is gravely disabled, the person may, upon probable cause, be taken into custody by a peace officer, member of the attending staff of an evaluation facility, designated members of a mobile crisis team, or other designated professional person, and placed in a facility designated by the county and approved by the State Department of Health Care Services for 72-hour treatment and evaluation.
This bill would specify procedures for delivering people to facilities for mental health evaluation and treatment; procedures for probable cause determinations for detention and evaluation; terms and length of detention in various types of facilities; and criteria for release from non-designated hospitals. The bill would exempt certain providers of health services, such as emergency room doctors, and peace officers from criminal or civil liability for the actions of a person after release, subject to certain exceptions. The bill would authorize certain emergency transport providers and providers of ambulance services to continue the detention of an individual for the purpose of transporting the person. The bill would require a designated facility to accept detained people without regard to insurance or financial status. The bill would also make changes to how the county is notified when a detained person is released, including notification through the 24-hour toll-free telephone number established by the county’s mental health program.
A group of stakeholders including DRC worked with the sponsors and author on amendments to ensure patients are not dumped, that emergency room doctors receive necessary training to care for people with mental health disabilities in crisis and liability immunities are not overly broad.
Thus far, the sponsors have amended the bill to include training for emergency room doctors and tightened up immunity provisions. We are still working on patient dumping issues. The bill is in the Senate Health Committee.


Voting Legislation

SB 450 (Allen) – Oppose unless amended: Existing law authorizes cities with a population of fewer than 100,000 persons, school districts, and special districts to conduct an all-mailed ballot special election to fill a vacancy on the legislative or governing body of those entities.
This bill would, on or after January 1, 2018, allow a county to hold any election as an all-mailed ballot election if certain conditions are met, such as having ballot drop-off locations and vote centers. It would require a county to report to the Legislature and the Secretary of State about elections held as a result of this bill. The bill would require the Secretary of State to report to the Legislature about the success of such an election.
The bill would also require the Secretary of State to establish a taskforce to review all-mailed ballot elections and provide comments and recommendations to the Legislature on or before April 1, 2021.
The bill is a two-year bill and is in the Assembly Elections and Redistricting Committee. For the past year, DRC has been involved in stakeholder meetings with the sponsor and author. As a result of our involvement the bill has been amended to include a number of accessibility provisions, including accessible vote centers and drop-off locations, proximity to public transportation, more favorable ratios for vote centers, specific outreach to people with disabilities and a way for people with disabilities who are blind, have manual dexterity disabilities or other disabilities making a paper ballot inaccessible a way to read and mark the ballots.


Juveniles Legislation

SB 1143 (Leno) – Support: This bill limits the use of room confinement at state and county juvenile correctional facilities, and creates statewide standards about how isolation can be used in these facilities. The bill limits room confinement to four hours and allows it only when less harmful options have been exhausted and documented. It creates rules to ensure room confinement is not used for punishment, coercion, convenience, or retaliation. The bill passed the Senate Public Safety and is in the Senate Appropriations Committee.


Housing Legislation

AB 2817 (Chiu) – Support: Existing law establishes a low-income housing tax credit program, which the California Tax Credit Allocation Committee provides procedures and requirements for the allocation of state insurance, personal income, and corporation income tax credit amounts among low-income housing projects based on federal law.
This bill, for calendar years beginning 2017, would increase the aggregate housing credit dollar amount that may be allocated among low-income housing projects.
Affordable accessible housing for low income people with disabilities and seniors is not readily available. Tax credits are one source of funding for accessible housing. This bill would encourage the development of more critically needed housing. This bill is in the Assembly Revenue and Taxation Committee.
AB 2312 (Gatto) – Oppose: DRC opposes AB 2312, which would significantly change defendants’ rights in unlawful detainer actions by requiring represented tenants to deposit monthly rent with their attorneys. If this bill were to become law, tenants would have to choose between asserting their federal and state fair housing rights and seeking alternative housing. In today’s housing markets for low income tenants with disabilities, forcing them to look for housing in the short time period between the filing of the unlawful detainer and the actual eviction by the sheriff would result in many of them becoming homeless. Tenants would not be able to look earlier, because their funds would be tied up and they would not be able to make a deposit on another place. Today, tenants have real world choices to secure alternate housing while still remaining liable for any rents the courts find they owe to the landlords. The bill would remove those choices.
AB 2312 raises significant constitutional and ethical concerns. In no other civil actions in California is a defendant’s right to retain an attorney and defend a lawsuit conditioned on the ability to pay damages, in this situation the rent owed. Damages are an element of the plaintiff’s cause of action, to be proven by a preponderance of the evidence by the plaintiff. In an unlawful detainer action, the tenant may negate the landlord’s claim, in whole or in part, by disputing the amount of rent owed. For example, the landlord may have lost or disregarded a payment, unlawfully increased the rent, or failed to maintain the habitability of the premises. To require pre-deposit of the full rent claimed would as a practical matter effectively preclude tenants from litigating the matter.
AB 2312 would also interfere with the attorney-client relationship. It would require defense counsel to violate their duty of confidentiality by requiring them to disclose information, such as whether a tenant deposited the rent and potentially the source of payments, to individuals other than their clients, including opposing parties and the courts. It could create a significant conflict of interest for attorneys, who would be forced to participate in the receipt of the tenant’s funds that might be required to be paid to the landlord, wrongfully or rightfully.
Tenants’ procedural rights are already significantly curtailed under existing unlawful detainer law. AB 2312 would result in many tenants of being unable to have attorney representation, and with it, their ability to defend themselves because they cannot pay the rent. The bill is in the Assembly Judiciary Committee.


Supplemental Security Income Program

AB 1584 (Brown) – Support: AB 1584 increases Supplemental Security Income/State Supplementary Payment (SSI/SSP) grants annually for the next 4 years, and restores the annual "Cost-Of-Living Adjustment" (COLA).
Current Individual SSI/SSP grants are $889.40. Californians with disabilities who receive SSI/SSP must pay all expenses from this grant, and are unable to close the financial gap they face each month. AB 1584 would help the more than 1 million Californians who are blind, aged, or living with disabilities and rely on this cash assistance program. This bill is currently in Assembly Appropriations Committee. We are working to restore the SSI/SSP levels through the state budget process, as a member of a large coalition working to raise the grant levels.
Public Policy Goal: Goal 1
DRC Staff: Evelyn Abouhassan, Catherine Blakemore, Deborah Doctor, Margaret Johnson, Brandon Tartaglia
Grant/Funding Source(s): Trust Fund, Equal Access


Outreach and Education

Disability Capitol Action Day was cancelled this spring due to work on the Capitol lawn, making it impossible to hold an accessible event of this size. The event coordinators, Disability Action Coalition (DAC), decided instead to organize and host a voting forum in September. Unfortunately no dates or facilities have been located to accommodate such an event. At this point DAC is considering holding a smaller event, however a final decision has not been made. DAC will also focus on ways to build the disability voting bloc before the November election.
March 14, 2016, Family Voices of California 14th Annual Health Summit and Legislative Day: We attended the Family Resource Centers annual Family Voices Health Summit. We facilitated a small group break out session of youth with disabilities and discussed key health related legislative issues that were important to group participants. DRC staff provided guidance on how to meet with legislators and what to expect. Working with group participants, we helped to develop talking points for use in legislative meetings. The talking points were subsequently shared with the larger audience of summit participants.
March 18, 2016, University of Southern California University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities Policy Series Webinar: We developed a PowerPoint and facilitated a webinar training on the legislative process for regional center consumers and family members, with the goal of targeting an ethnically diverse audience. The focus of the training was the bill development process from introduction to governor’s signature/veto, with an emphasis on how the participants could influence the legislative process. Participants were provided links to various legislative resources, including links to DRC’s legislative pages and position letters.
Public Policy Goals: Goal 2
DRC Staff: Evelyn Abouhassan, Brandon Tartaglia
Grant/Funding Source(s): Equal Access


PEER SELF-ADVOCACY

Peer Self Advocacy Group Successes

Resident Successfully Petitions for Transfer to CONREP: Although “Sandy” has been a resident at a facility for 11 years on a 1026.2 (Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity) commitment, she did not understand her commitment or how to be released to the community. Four years ago, she started coming to the peer self-advocacy (PSA) group because she wanted to get out of the hospital. With the information and resources she gathered, Sandy learned about her commitment both from the California Penal Code and Disability Rights California’s forensic manual. The manual is located online here: http://www.disabilityrightsca.org/pubs/507701.pdf.
With PSA staff’s help, Sandy learned about and filed a 1026.2 petition with the court to be transferred to the Conditional Release Program (CONREP) program. Her petition was heard and she won. As soon as a bed becomes available, she will be released to the community. She credits the PSA group for helping her understand her commitment and encouraging her to advocate for what she wants.
Peer-Self-Advocacy Goal(s): Goal 1, Objective A (Self-Advocacy Groups)
DRC Staff: Debi Davis
Grant/Funding Source(s): PAIMI

Self-Advocacy Group Member Creates Action Plan to Live in the Community:
A bilingual group member who attends PSA groups wanted to get out of the facility to take care of his mother. After PSA staff presented and reviewed the “Challenging LPS Conservatorship Manual,” “Jose” learned the steps to get off conservatorship and move into the community.
He developed a plan for how he would get discharged. He talked with his doctor about his medication and they agreed it was helping his symptoms and he was doing well. With PSA staff’s help, he realized that getting third party assistance would help convince the court he could provide for his food, clothing and shelter. He requested his mother as his third party assistant, but the court decided he needed more support. So his pastor agreed to help him and give him reminders to take his medication, among other things. He also identified community groups he could attend for support.
Jose made plans to look for work. Interested in learning automotive maintenance skills, he plans to get training at the local community college. PSA staff informed him he might qualify for Department of Rehabilitation (DOR) services to get help with his education expenses. We gave him information about the Client Assistance Program to help advocate for services from DOR.
With the knowledge he gained from attending the self-advocacy groups and PSA staff’s assistance, Jose successfully developed his own action plan to live in the community.
Peer-Self-Advocacy Goal(s): Goal 1, Objective A (Self-Advocacy Groups)
DRC Staff: Leo Alfaro
Grant/Funding Source(s): PAIMI

Self-Advocacy Group Member Affirms Benefits of PSA Services:
Lawrence F. participates in a weekly self-advocacy group facilitated by PSA staff. He shared the following story to express his appreciation for PSA services help to learn his rights and ways to exercise them:
“Since May of 2015, I’ve been attending the weekly public mental health information group provided by Disability Rights California (DRC). The weekly meeting is an informal gathering in a professional environment guided by a moderator to discuss Mental Health concerns in our lives and communities; it’s a unique forum to ask questions and hear what the current public discourse and law are on mental health matters. It’s an opportunity to check in with others to compare notes, thoughts, ideas, approaches, to give and receive encouragement and become familiar with mental health disability rights.
The group has been an anchor for me during a recent period of transition. Through my participation in the group I’ve boosted my self-advocacy skills, I’ve received practical information on job training, job interviewing rights, housing information and rights and my participation has increased my self-confidence. Attending the weekly mental health self-advocacy group is an important part of my life.”
Peer-Self-Advocacy Goal(s): Goal 1, Objective A (Self-Advocacy Groups)
DRC Staff:  Senobia Pichardo
Grant/Funding Source(s):  PAIMI

UCLA Students Learn their Rights to Reasonable Accommodations:
In a workshop presented by PSA staff with a grant from the UCLA Disability Studies Philanthropy class, UCLA students learned about their right to request reasonable accommodations to help them succeed in school. They learned about their rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
Many students didn’t know they were eligible for services from the Office for Disabled Students as a person with a mental health disability and learned about UCLA’s accommodation process. PSA staff discussed strategies for obtaining accommodations and participants identified specific accommodations for hypothetical scenarios, such as asking for more time, a quiet place to take an exam or getting help from a note-taker. Participants had many misperceptions about their rights, fearing that taking medications or not having university health insurance made them ineligible for accommodations. After the workshop, many students said they would think about ways they could benefit from having accommodations and request them.
Peer-Self-Advocacy Goal(s): Goal 1, Objective B (Workshops)
DRC Staff: Robyn Gantsweg
Grant/Funding Source(s): UCLA/PAIMI

Reaching out to Ethnic- and Language-Distinct Communities:
After PSA staff outreached to individuals receiving services at the Elder Multicultural Access and Support Services in Escondido and El Cajon, they told us they wanted a self-advocacy group. Escondido has a large monolingual Spanish-speaking population, and most of the group members are 65 years and older. Having little information about patients’ rights, group members are learning self-advocacy skills to access the services they need.
Since El Cajon has a large Arabic community, we explained with help from an interpreter about their right to receive services in a language they understand. Sharing their concerns about the challenges finding affordable housing, group members learned they had similar experiences and felt supported by their peers.
At the Asians and Pacific Islanders with Disabilities California conference in Pasadena, we provided information and resources about mental health and developmental disabilities. Approximately 400 people attended the conference, the majority of whom were people with disabilities. PSA spoke to many of the 120 people who approached the table, including a woman who wanted to know about patients’ rights because she was worried about her son who lived in a facility. Publications were provided in many languages, including materials in Korean and English so both a mother and her son had access to the information.
Peer-Self-Advocacy Goal(s): Goal 1, Objective A (Outreach, Education and Training)
DRC Staff: Linda Naranjo, Barbara Acosta
Grant/Funding Source(s): PAIMI

Advocacy for Access:
A facility resident for five years, “May” regularly attended the PSA group. A state licensing agency determines the number of occupants per room based on square footage, and she was assigned to a four-bed room. Three months ago, another bed and night stand were put in the room. Five people now shared a space intended for four individuals. May could not open her night stand drawer to retrieve her belongings, and tension arose because her roommates couldn’t move around without disrupting another person’s space. As a result, the room was not accessible to everyone.
May knew residents had the right to access their personal belongings unless their right was denied for “good cause.” Since good cause did not exist, the state hospital was violating May’s and her roommates’ rights. Staff said there was nothing they could do and told her to “try to make the best of it.”
May got the phone number for state licensing from the PSA group and registered a complaint. As a result, the fifth bed was removed and the resident transferred to a different unit. Thanks to May’s self-advocacy, she and her roommates can access their belongings and their room is now accessible.
Peer-Self-Advocacy Goal(s): Goal 1, Objective A (Self-Advocacy Groups)
DRC Staff: Debi Davis
Grant/Funding Source(s): PAIMI