Backwards California

California is home to Silicon Valley and the cradle of high technology that put a great wealth of information within reach for individuals. However, our state seems stuck in the Stone Age when it comes to consumers having access to relevant information when making major decisions.

A case in point is the state’s database for residential care facilities for the elderly, which only provides their address and licensing status. If someone wants to know if that care facility had issues with fines and inspections, they must go on a long journey through the California Social Services Department. They must call one of nine regional offices and convince an employee to send them the information about the facility in question by mail, read it over the phone or set it aside so the caller can go to the office to see it.

In states like Florida, this information is available online and consumers can access it easily. An investigation by the Contra Costa Times newspaper has revealed that achieving this in California, according to the authorities, will cost $30,000 and take four years. Florida, on the other hand, pays $298,000 a year to have a complete and updated website.

We recently mentioned in these pages that people looking for information about preschools for their children faced the same difficulties as in this case—when in other states, like Texas, all the data needed to make a decision that matters so much to the family is available.

To make matters worse, just like preschools, nursing homes in California are inspected only every five years. This should be done annually, like in other states.

The lack of interest that state authorities have shown in providing necessary information to consumers is worrisome. It is even more serious that this lack of attention involves precisely facilities that care for vulnerable populations, like children and the elderly.