Los Angeles (Sept 16, 2022) – For decades, California’s Department of Developmental Services (DDS) has been plagued by staggering inequities in service funding for non-English speaking clients and clients of color. In May of this year, Public Counsel issued a report finding that despite California’s investment of $66 million in the past six years on programs intended to reduce disparities between racial and ethnic groups, significant gaps in funding between children of different racial and ethnic groups persist. Comparing data from fiscal year 2020-2021 with data from fiscal year 2015-2016, disparities in service expenditures between White children and Latino children improved in only four regional centers while worsening in the other seventeen regional centers.
Governor Gavin Newsom signed a bill into law this past Tuesday that aims to alleviate some of the barriers contributing to these disparities. AB 1957, authored by Assemblywoman Lori D. Wilson, will help to ensure that no family will face barriers in accessing services simply because English is not their primary language. Because the regional centers serve a diverse population that speaks 45 different languages, there is a critical need to deliver culturally and linguistically appropriate information to consumers and their families so that they can effectively plan for their future. The new law requires regional centers and DDS to publicly report on the number of instances where it takes longer than 45 days to translate a client’s individual program plan (IPP) into their preferred language.
“For years, we have seen how non-English speaking families have struggled to equitably access resources through the state’s regional centers,” said Brian Capra, an attorney with Public Counsel – a non-profit law firm that co-sponsored the bill along with Disability Rights California. “Too many non-English speaking families have been unable to access their IPP, which is the centerpiece of the developmental services delivery system. It explains all the specifics of how families can access the services that have been approved for them by the regional center. This bill enhances system accountability and empowers families to better seek and advocate for services to benefit their children.”
AB 1957 will also require DDS and the regional centers to report on the purchase of services data for the recently restored set of social recreation activities, including camping, and other therapeutic services, such as art, dance, and music therapies. The long-standing limitation on these services has disproportionately affected communities of color who are more reliant on these types of supports. With the enactment of AB 1957, the public can now more effectively monitor how the restoration of these services will affect existing funding disparities.
“It is an honor to have my first bill signed into law dealing with such an important issue,” said Assemblywoman Lori D. Wilson (D-Suisun City). “Research has demonstrated that Black and Latino adults living with intellectual disabilities have worse outcomes when compared to White adults living with those same disabilities. As a State, we must do more to address inequity as it exists within our programs and AB 1957 is a step in the right direction. Thank you Governor Newsom and to our co-sponsors at Public Counsel and Disability Rights California for your continued partnership on this issue.”
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Public Counsel – Founded in 1970, Public Counsel is the nation’s largest provider of pro bono legal services, utilizing an innovative legal model to promote justice, hope, and opportunity in lower-income and communities of color in Los Angeles and across the nation. Through groundbreaking civil rights litigation, community building, advocacy, and policy change, as well as wide-ranging direct legal services that annually help thousands of people experiencing poverty, Public Counsel has fought to secure equal justice and opportunity for all for more than 50 years.