The Story Behind the Inland Regional Center, Site of San Bernardino Massacre

A helicopter hovers around the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino, Calif., the scene of a mass shooting on Wednesday.

A helicopter hovers around the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino, California, the scene of a mass shooting on Wednesday. (Luis Sinco/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

As you’ve certainly heard by now, a mass shooting in San Bernardino on Wednesday morning has left at least 14 people dead and at least 17 wounded.

Two suspects in the attack, which occurred on the grounds of a social service facility called the Inland Regional Center, died in a gunbattle with police.

What exactly is the Inland Regional Center and its mission?

It was created by the state as part of a network of regional centers, and it serves adults and children in San Bernardino and Riverside counties who have developmental disabilities.

Such disabilities include those resulting from Down syndrome, epilepsy, autism and cerebral palsy.

If you have a loved one with a developmental disability, your first stop in California is the regional center in your area. There are 21 regional centers  statewide. As State of Health reported last week, regional centers were created after the 1969 Lanterman Act ended the mass institutionalization of people with developmental disabilities and created the network of the nonprofit centers.

“The majority of work that regional centers do,” said Eileen Richey, executive director of the Association of Regional Center Agencies, “is providing case management services to people with developmental disabilities as well as their families.”

Employees and other people are evacuated by bus from the site of a mass shooting at the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino.
Employees and other people are evacuated by bus from the site of a mass shooting at the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino. (David McNew/Getty Images)

While most of the direct services or treatments happen at providers’ offices in the community, clients and families are frequently found in the regional centers.

“They could be there for a development plan,” Richey said in an interview, “and they could be at a regional center for an evaluation or an assessment for services.”

Almost certainly, people with developmental disabilities and family members were in the Inland Regional Center when the shooting started. The Inland center is the state’s largest, with more than 600 staff members and 30,000 clients. It’s hard to gauge how widespread the impact of today’s events will be on the center’s clients.

Helping a loved one with a developmental disability cope with the tragedy will depend on the person, says Karla McLaren, the Santa Rosa author of “The Art of Empathy.”

“Everyone will experience it differently,” she said. “And it’s important to listen to the person’s own fears or own concerns … and to talk about that frankly.”

Olivia Balcao, a social worker and senior program analyst with the Association of Regional Center Agencies, said it’s important to be aware of the person’s disability and their own ability to take in the information.

“You share an amount and try to see how much they’re grasping, how much they’re processing, if they have any questions, and give them the lead.”

The Story Behind the Inland Regional Center, Site of San Bernardino Massacre 3 December,2015Lisa Aliferis

Author

Lisa Aliferis

Lisa Aliferis is the founding editor of KQED's State of Health blog. Since 2011, she's been writing and editing stories for the site. Before taking up blogging, she toiled for many years (more than we can count) producing health stories for television, including Dateline NBC and San Francisco's CBS affiliate, KPIX-TV. She also wrote up a handy guide to the Affordable Care Act, especially for Californians. Her work has been honored for many awards. Most recently she was a finalist for "Best Topical Reporting" from the Online News Association. You can follow her on Twitter: @laliferis

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