11:09 PM PST on Sunday, January 23, 2011

By JIM MILLER
Sacramento Bureau

SACRAMENTO – The state has put the Inland Regional Center on probation following months of scrutiny into the operations at the San Bernardino-based facility, the largest of 21 nonprofit agencies that contract with the state to arrange services for developmentally disabled residents.

The action by the California Department of Developmental Services comes as “the extent and depth of the Department’s concerns regarding IRC’s performance have continued to grow” — including state auditors’ conclusion that the center violated parts of its contract with the state, according to a letter last week from department Director Terri Delgadillo to LaVesta Locklin, the president of Inland Regional Center Inc.

Housing for developmentally disabled has high cost

The department’s probation order imposes tougher contract rules. In particular, the state wants changes and more details in how the center handles state property, sets rates paid to providers, and manages its housing program. The center must act by March 31.

Failing to comply would put the center at risk of losing its contract with state, department spokeswoman Nancy Lungren said Sunday. Two other regional centers have been put on probation in the past five years; both still have contracts with the state, Lungren said.

Locklin, in a letter to clients, said, “Our plan will work toward improving relationships with consumers and their families, our providers of service and staff.”

The Sacramento Bee first reported the state’s probation order Sunday.

Serving more than 22,000 people, Inland Regional Center contracts with the state to provide job training, education and other services to people with developmental disabilities.

About 10,000 of the Inland Regional Center’s clients live in Riverside County and the rest are in San Bernardino County. It has an annual budget of about $250 million.

Family members of clients and vendors have stepped up criticism of the Inland center in recent years. In September, a state audit highlighted concerns about its contracting practices and described what auditors said was a culture of employee intimidation.

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