SACRAMENTO (CBS13) – Critics were chanting for change at the Capitol as lawmakers discussed how to care for the developmentally disabled Thursday.
Those critics say neglect and abuse are widespread in homes designed to care for the disabled. So they rallied to get the taxpayer-funded centers shut down.
“I’m here to shut down the developmental centers,” said Nick Kimberly.
Members of the disabled community are demanding change, claiming the state run developmental centers are more like jails — full of abuse and neglect.
It comes as the state’s Legislative Analyst’s Office is asking for more oversight to keep clients like Kimberly safe.
“I was sexually abused, and it wasn’t a good thing, and now I’m out and I’m loving my life,” Kimberly said.
There are four remaining state developmental centers left open.
The closest is in Sonoma, which has been plagued with abuse allegations. Most recently, a staff member was accused of using a taser on clients.
Overall, abuse cases rose more than 40 percent between 2008 and 2010.
However, there are those who disagree.
“This is the safest place for their loved ones,” Katleen Miller said.
She has a son at the Petaluma location and disagrees with the protest, claiming abuse can happen anywhere.
“Are we going to close all the community homes because one bad apple is abusive to the folks out there?” she asked.
Sen. Mark Desaulnier says the cost at more than $300,000 per patient, per year simply doesn’t make sense.
“We want to tell those institutions and use those assets to put people out in the community,” he said.
While no decision was made Thursday, it was a powerful message they hoped to deliver from those who often feel powerless.
“If you truly knew what was going on behind the closed doors, you wouldn’t want your family member there,” said one woman.
While the future of the centers remains unclear, for now, state lawmakers say they will be working to reduce the more than $500 million that the centers eat up annually.