A resident, conservator, friend, family member, or other advocate who finds the care or services from a Regional Center or facility lacking, negligent, or abusive should take action to right the wrong. Many resources are available to assist those with developmental difficulties, and that is often reassuring. But it can also be overwhelming, and may mean that finding the right help requires some patience and perseverance.
Contact the Facility Owner
Before turning to outside sources for help, try to resolve minor complaints directly at the facility. Either a separate written policy or portions of the admission agreement signed earlier should explain how to file a complaint or grievance there. Put complaints in writing to the facility’s owner and ask for a written response within a limited time, allowing a fair chance to address the concerns.
Use Regional Center Complaint Procedures
If a resident’s main contact — usually a social worker or case manager — at the Regional Center seems unhelpful, ask that another representative be assigned. If that doesn’t resolve the problem, discuss your concerns with the director of the Regional Center. Finally, you can contact the Regional Center’s Clients’ Rights Advocate at 800.390.7032 or 877.669.6023 (TTY).
You may also want to pursue one or more of the formal processes that the California Department of Developmental Services has established for handling complaints on behalf of Regional Center clients.
- For claims that a right has been denied by a Regional Center, developmental center, or a service provider, as opposed to disputes about eligibility, or the nature, scope, or amount of services, see the Consumer Rights Complaint Process.
- If a facility operator has denied a resident’s personal rights, follow the Title 17 Complaint Procedure, named after the section of the law that guarantees those rights.
- For complaints about an improper activity by a Regional Center or vendor or contractor of its services, follow the Whistleblower Complaints procedure.
- Any other type of problem concerning a Regional Center, developmental center, or Department of Developmental Services office can be addressed by filing a Citizens Comments and Complaints form (DS 2007) in English or Spanish.
Consult the Ombudsman
In keeping with the law, the California Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program assigns an ombudsman — a trained advocate not associated with the ownership or management of the facility — to investigate problems and resolve complaints made by, or on behalf of, residents who live there.
Complaints can be filed directly with the local ombudsman’s office or by calling the statewide crisis line at 800.231.4024, which is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Ombudsman services are free and confidential and may include:
- Dealing with concerns about quality of care
- Answering questions about proper care
- Investigating suspected physical, mental, or emotional abuse of residents
- Attending meetings to discuss a resident’s care plan or concerns about treatment
Reach Out to an Advocacy Organization
Several organizations offer expert and impartial assessments of whether a particular complaint needs action, along with guidance on how to get it, including:
- State Council on Developmental Disabilities, an independent state agency focused on people with developmental disabilities and their families, at 866.802.0514 or 916.324.8420 (TTY)
- Disability Rights Advocates, a nonprofit center focused on advancing equal rights and opportunities for people with disabilities, at 510.665.8644 or 510.665.8716 (TTY)
- California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform (CANHR), a nonprofit consumer advocacy group, at 800.474.1116
Contact State Regulatory Agencies
For persistent problems with quality of care, violations of residents’ rights, staffing inadequacies, and other serious problems, contact the state agency that regulates nursing facilities, the local Licensing and Certification District Office or call 916.552.8700 or 800.236.9747. It will investigate, possibly issue citations and fines, and make a report of the investigation.
If you suspect someone in the facility has been abusive, take one of these actions:
- Report it to the local office of the California Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program.
- Call the Office of the Attorney General, Bureau of Medi-Cal Fraud and Elder Abuse at 800.722.0432.
- Consult an attorney experienced in elder abuse or disability law for help.