Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Oh, I said I'd write weekly didn't I?

My new friend, PARCA writes a blog advocating Regional Center Reform. He and I agree on a lot, and I was reading his site today, where he reminded me that I haven't ground my accountability axe recently. Shame on me.

Accountability is a massive deficit in this system. How much money is spent on needlessly restricting clients, providing useless services through feckless providers, choosing costlier options to superior ones, adding layers of bureaucratic duty or regulation unaccompanied by better outcomes? I don't know and neither does anyone else. So a lot, no doubt. Lest someone accuse me of regional-center bashing, I do hereby confess the lack of accountability is systemwide and applies to vendors, regional centers, pretty much anyone taking a penny under the DDS line item. My own belief is that the lack of accountability probably does more harm than the lack of funding to consumers.

The big picture need for accountability requires a systemic, thoughtful approach and drastic reform. But here's something we can do today:

A low-cost, drip-dry way to improve the oversight in our system would be to improve transparency. This can be accomplished with a little care for confidentiality by the magic of carbon-copying. As a matter of policy, any communication sent to a provider agency can be cc-ed to their vendoring regional center. Any communication sent to a regional center, if clients' names are redacted, can be cc-ed to the Department of Developmental Services (DDS) or the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS.) Any communication sent to the department can be sent to CMS as well.

It's a poor substitute for a system of outcome measurements that defers to choice, but I'll wager it would help in the interim.

"Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God." -Phillipians 4:6 (KJV)

Thursday, February 09, 2006

A New Blog

The Vendor Leadership Forum (VLF), a subcomittee of the Eastern Los Angeles County Regional Center Vendor Advisory Committee (VAC,) has established a weblog as part of its effort to form a learning community and to be transparent to the community.

This new blog (linked permanently at left and in this post above) will open up the progress, challenges, milestones and planning of the VLF for information and feedback. The members of the VLF will all have the opportunity to describe the journey, the scenery and the adorable natives we meet along the way. We invite all of you to read and comment there.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006


I think our system has a funny relationship with administration. On the one hand, it's almost a tenet of faith that administrative costs deprive the clients. On the other, the State and Regional Centers sure seem to come up with a lot of ideas for vendors to do more of it. There are a few things that stand out to me about the role of administration in our system.

The first is this: Our system derives its efficiency and effectiveness from the individualism in the service planning. In theory always and in reality sometimes, services provided are so well matched with the client and his or her situation that there is no waste and yet every disability-related need is met. OK, right, but the point is, the matching of service to need and the flexibility to treat each client individually clearly requires more management that one-size-fits-all solutions. Add to that our emphasis on integration and services being located in the home and in the community and it becomes clear that the quality-assurance and communications functions of administration are more demanding and more productive than in standardized, facility-based models of care.

The second thing that stands out is this: Administration and management interfere with the process by which individuals and their staff find their own way. Quality Assurance, service planning and coordination are all interventions in the organic process of person-centered support. Administration may be necessary or beneficial but it can easily be stultifying, invasive and counter-productive. Like this entire system, cost-benefit analysis should be applied to both administration and the regulations and policies that promote administration to make sure we do the optimum amount of administration the best way possible. I should clarify that by analysis I mean analysis and nothing that begins with "I think" like this post did.