Protection & Advocacy, Inc.
In 1975, after television news exposed horrific abuse and neglect at Willowbrook, a state institution for people with mental retardation on Staten Island, New York Senator Jacob Javits successfully pushed Congress to mandate and fund Protection and Advocacy systems in each state.
The laws which give Protection and Advocacy systems the special responsibility to protect and advocate for people with disabilities also give those organizations a unique tool with which to accomplish that task: access to facilities or programs providing care and treatment to persons with disabilities, and access to the confidential records of people with disabilities. This access permits Protection and Advocacy systems to conduct abuse or neglect investigations, provide information and training about the rights of individuals with disabilities, and monitor a facility or program’s compliance with respect to the rights and safety of people who receive their services. Protection and Advocacy systems are also unique because courts have recognized that the broad Congressional authority allows them to bring actions in their own name to vindicate the rights of people with disabilities.
In May 1978 California’s Protection & Advocacy, Inc. (PAI) became a non-profit agency with responsibility for providing the advocacy services required under the Developmental Disabilities Assistance and Bill of Rights Act of 1975. PAI was governed by a seven-member Board of Directors appointed by the Governor and received advice and assistance from a Review Committee.
PAI opened its first office in Sacramento in 1978; more regional offices followed: Los Angeles, 1980; Oakland, 1985; San Diego, 2002. Today, in addition to these four regional offices, PAI has satellite offices in 26 locations throughout the state.
The Protection and Advocacy for Individuals with Mental Illness Act (PAIMI) were created in 1986 in response to Congressional findings of abuse and neglect of individuals with psychiatric disabilities in residential care facilities. In addition to providing legal representation to persons with psychiatric disabilities, PAI expanded its services to include peer/self-advocacy and investigations of abuse and neglect.
In 1993, PAI became a cross-disability advocacy agency when Congress expanded the PAI’s role to protect and advocate for the rights of individuals with disabilities who were not eligible for services under other programs. PAI’s programs and services were expanded throughout the 1990’s with the addition of the Protection and Advocacy for Assistance Technology (PAAT) program, the Protection and Advocacy for Beneficiaries of Social Security (PAAS) program, the Protection and Advocacy for Traumatic Brain Injury (PATBI) and Protection and Advocacy for Voting Access (PAVA) program.
Beginning in 1993 PAI worked with other advocates and constituency groups to ensure that state-funded advocacy services were independent. In 1993, PAI opened the Office of Patients Rights after state legislation made it possible to contract with PAI for the provision of advocacy services to persons with psychiatric disabilities in state hospitals and to provide training and technical assistance to county patients rights advocates. In 1998 PAI began developing the Office of Clients Rights Advocacy after the passage of state legislation which made it possible to contract with PAI for clients rights advocacy services. Under this contract, PAI provides advocacy assistance, training and technical assistance to clients of the 21 regional centers.
PAI receives support from the State Bar of California’s IOLTA program, which funds legal services for low-income people around California, and from the Equal Access Fund, created by the California legislature to provide individual legal help and system-wide advocacy for indigent Californians. Other funding comes from attorney fees and donations
Today, PAI is the largest disability advocacy agency in the nation, with 220 staff members. PAI’s Board of Directors, all of whom are now appointed by existing board members, reflect the diverse constituency served by PAI.
Is a nonprofit disability rights organization, working since 1978 to advance human and legal rights of Californians with disabilities. We strive to create a barrier-free, inclusive society that values diversity and each individual. PAI services are available throughout the state and we assist tens of thousands of people with disabilities each year.Additionally, hundreds of thousands of Californians with disabilities and their families benefit from PAI’s legislative advocacy, class-action court suits and collaboration with other groups.
The more than 200 PAI staff and Board members have a wide array of legal and advocacy expertise and have developed innovative programs for Californians with developmental, psychiatric, sensory and physical disabilities. PAI collaborates on the state and federal levels with other advocacy groups throughout the U.S.