Senate OKs bills inspired by care-home fiasco

The state Senate on Wednesday approved two bills that aim to prevent future snafus like that which led to more than a dozen senior citizens being abandoned at a Castro Valley residential care home in October after the state ordered it shut down.

SB 894 aims to strengthen and clarify the obligations of the California Department of Social Services and a licensee when that license is suspended or revoked, to ensure safe relocation of residents when a facility closure happens. The senate approved this bill on a 27-8 vote.

And SB 895 aims to bolster the assisted-living facility inspection process by requiring that unannounced, comprehensive inspections of all residential care facilities for the elderly occur at least once per year, and more often if necessary to ensure the proper quality of care. The senate approved this bill on a 36-0 vote.

In the 1970s and 1980s, DSS’ Community Care Licensing Division inspected residential care facilities twice a year. But budget cuts reduced that number to once a year in the 1990s, and inspections were reduced further in 2004 to once every five years.

State Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett, D-Hayward, authored both bills, which are part of a legislative package sponsored by the California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform.

“Following the tragedy at Valley Springs Manor in Castro Valley last year, it is clear that assisted living facility residents deserve improved protections and safeguards that ensure they will remain safe both while living at those facilities, as well as if and when those group residences are closed,” Corbett said in a news release Wednesday.

The senate also voted unanimously Wednesday to pass Corbett’s SB 836, which would establish the California Blueprint for Research to Advance Innovations in Neuroscience (Cal-BRAIN) program – a public-private research project to speed up development of brain-mapping techniques and technology. The program would be managed by the University of California in partnership with public and private research institutions, national laboratories, and private companies.

The Obama administration last year unveiled the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative to map the activity of every neuron in the human brain, with a proposed investment of up to $3 billion over ten years.

Cal-BRAIN “allows us to be competitive so that we can draw federal dollars into our state,” Corbett said Wednesday. “Places like UC-Berkeley and Livermore Lab will be involved, also Stanford and UCSF, so there will be a lot of opportunities for Bay Area jobs and research.”

Not to mention it could reveal new, advanced ways to prevent, treat or cure brain disorders such as autism, Alzheimer’s, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis and various kinds of mental illness. Corbett said the senate budget subcommittee on education has recommended that $2 million for this program be included in next year’s budget.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.