Director of the Department of Developmental Services: Who Is Santi J. Rogers?

Tuesday, February 25, 2014
Santi Rogers (photo: Abilities United)

The new director of California’s troubled Department of Developmental Services (DDS), Santi J. Rogers, has spent 45 years in the field, 27 years working for the state before serving as director of three different regional centers.

Rogers, 68, appointed last month by Governor Jerry Brown, replaced Therese "Terri" Delgadillo, who retired. The department he now heads has received an onslaught of criticism for its stewardship of the state’s five board-and-care institutions, where 1,500 patients with developmental disabilities, such as mental retardation, cerebral palsy, epilepsy and autism, are cared for.

Born and raised in Fresno, Rogers began working for the department in the 1960s. At various times, he was a special education teacher; director of the Title I Early Education Program, and program director and executive director at DDS.

Rogers moved to the Stockton State Hospital, the state’s first psychiatric facility, in 1976 to become its executive director. He returned to DDS in 1983 as deputy director and left four later to become executive director of the Porterville Developmental Center. He did double duty in 1992-93 when he also directed the Agnews Developmental Center.

Rogers has been director at the San Andreas Regional Center in San Jose since 1995. He has been called on from time to time to serve in acting positions as a “trouble-shooter” at both developmental centers and regional centers. That included helping shut down the Stockton Developmental Center in 1996.

DDS has a proposed 2013-14 budget of $5.2 billion, including $2.9 billion in state general funds.  It oversees 21 non-profit regional centers which, in turn, coordinate services provided by community-based providers and individuals to over 260,000 eligible children and adults with developmental disabilities.

Many of those children and adults with developmental disabilities also receive critical services through special education, In-Home Supportive Services, Medi-Cal and other programs. Thousands more who are not eligible for regional center funded services also participate.

The department also oversees the operation of four state-owned developmental centers and one smaller facility, where a total of around 1,350 adults with developmental disabilities live.

Delgadillo, Rogers’ predecessor, was originally appointed to her position by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2006 and was reappointed to the post by Governor Jerry Brown in 2011. Santi spoke in support at her confirmation hearing before the Legislature in 2007 and gave a glowing assessment. “Terri is able to get folks from a wide variety of interests together and work with us all to help us find out elements of common ground, and then energize us to move ahead toward actualizing whatever plans, agreements, we come up with. I think that that is a wonderful quality and just a breath of fresh air for our system.”

“So, I encourage you all to support Terri. Good times lie ahead.”

Delgadillo was confirmed and almost immediately the nation’s economy crashed, putting an even greater burden on long-neglected state social services, like those delivered by DDS. A scathing report (pdf) last July from the California State Auditor echoed reports from the California Attorney General’s office a decade earlier that detailed dangerous and unhealthy conditions precipitated by inadequate security.

The department received 4,345 allegations of patient abuse the past five years, the auditor said, but the internal agency charged with investigating complaints botched the job miserably. Not only could the Office of Protective Services (OPS) not solve crimes, it couldn’t establish cases strong enough for prosecutors to pursue. After it got through with the cases, only 82 were deemed strong enough to send to prosecutors.   

Last month, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) announced that the federal government had begun the process for decertifying three of the state’s development centers. CDPH is responsible for oversight of health care facilities’ compliance with state laws and regulations through its licensing and certification program.

The move was not unexpected. CDPH found the three, the Porterville, Lanterman and Fairview Developmental Centers, to be out of compliance with federal requirements for receiving Medicaid certification.

The DDS director’s position requires Senate confirmation and the compensation is $169,950. Rogers is registered decline-to-state.

–Ken Broder


To Learn More:

Governor Brown Announces Appointments (Office of the Governor)

New Director Appointed to DDS (North Bay Regional Center)

Santi Rogers—New DDS Director (Far Northern Regional Center)

Letter re: Appointment of Santi J. Rogers (by Alan Martin, Regional Center of Orange County) (pdf)

State’s Developmental Services Director Announces Resignation from Beleaguered Agency (by Ken Broder, AllGov California)

The California Department of Public Health Takes Enforcement Action against Three Developmental Centers (California Department of Public Health)

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