November 21, 2010; Source: The Sacramento Bee | Some service providers are up in arms in California about the way the state of California distributes billions of dollars a year to disability organizations. In a system initiated in the 1960s, funds are run through a set of 21 intermediaries called regional centers. These intermediaries are allowed to regrant on a basis that is neither competitive nor subject to the same kind of public disclosure rules as a government agency would be. This is seen, at least in part, to be responsible for a lack of accountability in some direct service organizations.

While certainly not critical of most providers in this field, this article begins with the story of one organization, Benson House, which houses “several dozen” people with developmental disabilities at a budget of $7.7 million. The article documents the salary of the executive, Jack Hinchman, at $520,000 and lists a number of other questionable practices including the fact that the director’s mother and another relative are on the board of Benson House.

The lead salary at Benson House is compared to that of the director of Angel View Crippled Children’s Foundation that runs 18 facilities at a total budget of more than $13 million and pays its executive $117,000. The article also makes the point that Hinchman’s half a million dollar salary tops the salaries of the California governor, lieutenant governor, and attorney general . . . combined.

The state has recently cut dollars to developmental disabilities service by $334 million and the Bureau of State Audits has just released a special report on six of the regional centers including the one which funds Benson House. Upset providers, bad press, and a smaller budget—looks like some changes may be afoot.—Ruth McCambridge