Capitol Alert

California regional centers take precautions after mass shooting in San Bernardino

Wednesday’s mass shooting at Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino prompted eight other nonprofits that serve people with developmental disabilities to close their doors early “out of an abundance of caution,” although officials said there are no known threats against any other facility.

“The victims of today’s shooting were connected to us by service to those in need. Our hearts are with all those affected,” said Anne Struthers, the board president of the Association of Regional Center Agencies, adding that the centers are working with law enforcement.

Inland Regional Center is the largest of 21 California nonprofits that contract with the state to provide services to nearly 300,000 people with autism, cerebral palsy and other developmental disabilities.

About 31,000 clients and their families in Riverside and San Bernardino counties receive help through the center, which in turn contracts with businesses and nonprofits for transportation, job-placement, day programs and other services. About 600 peole work there.

Wednesday’s mass shooting reportedly took place at the smallest of the campus’ three buildings, which houses a large meeting room.

“This is a tragic and heartbreaking moment for the disabled community in California,” April Lopez, the chairwoman of the State Council on Developmental Disabilities, said in a statement Wednesday.

Phil Bonnet, the executive director of the Alta Regional Center that serves the developmentally disabled in the Sacramento region, said Wednesday that he and other workers at the center are “in a state of shock.”

“We’re all part of the same family,” Bonnet said of Inland Regional Center. “We’re just in a state of shock that a place that caters to taking care of California’s most vulnerable citizens would be a target of something so heinous.”

Regional centers are the product of the Lanterman Act, the landmark 1969 law that began to shift the state’s developmentally disabled out of state-run institutions. Today, almost all developmentally disabled people receive services from community-based providers, amid growing complaints that state funding has failed to keep pace.

Regional center directors had been scheduled to meet Thursday in downtown Sacramento to discuss budget, legislative and other issues, but that meeting has been canceled, Bonnet said.

Inland Regional Center ran afoul of regulators several years ago for contracting and spending irregularities.

State officials put the center on probation in early 2011 after Department of Developmental Services investigators said it violated its contract with the state and illegally used state money to develop housing. In October 2011, the department ordered the center to repay almost $10 million that had been spent improperly.

“It’s been a rocky road for them,” said former lawmaker Bill Emmerson, who worked closely with center officials while representing parts of Riverside and San Bernardino counties in the Legislature. “I think they’re doing much better.”

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