COUNTY GETS MIXED REVIEWS REPORT NOTES TROUBLING RISE IN ELDER ABUSE.
Los Angeles County received good marks for crime, roads and the economy, but needs to tackle a disturbing increase in suspected elder abuse, rising gang violence and poor foster care, according to a first-ever ``progress report'' released Thursday.
The 71-page document by the Chief Administrative Office is designed to track key data to show the impact county services have on residents' lives.
Also listed among the county's successes was a higher number of mothers receiving prenatal care and rising wages. But it pointed out a 57 percent increase in reports of suspected elder and dependent adult abuse from 1999 through last year.
It also noted that health care services in general need to improve.
``It's important for the county to track how we are doing because our mission is to provide excellent services to our residents,'' said John Musella, a spokesman for Supervisor Don Knabe who called for the progress report.
Assistant Chief Administrative Officer Sharon Harper said the county was committed to improving services to residents.
``It's kind of looking at yourself, judging yourself,'' Harper said. ``We have done a lot in the area of children and families, community services, health and mental health.''
In fact, the report found a 119 percent increase in the number of children provided mental health services, rising from 37,626 in 1998-99 to 82,367 in 2002-03.
Dr. Roderick Shaner, medical director of the Mental Health Department, said the primary reason for the increase is due to a new program that provides a ``large revenue stream'' allowing the county to provide a broader range of services at schools and clinics. These include mental health interventions, screening for mental illness, psychotherapy, medication treatment and group therapy sessions.
``The more services we provide, the more money the state sends us to match the federal funds,'' Shaner said. ``What this was designed to do, and what it in fact did was to allow us to expand children's services, which historically were insufficient.
``So it was a major, major change. It allowed the amount of mental health services for children to grow much faster than kinds of services.''
The report found 91 percent of roads in unincorporated parts of the county were rated as satisfactory or better while only two-thirds of roads in the entire county were in good shape. The county public works department maintains county roads and ones in unincorporated areas where more than 1 million people live.
``It's a concern in the community and you don't hear a lot of complaints coming from people in the unincorporated areas,'' Harper said. ``And we pay attention when they do complain about their roads.''
The percentage of mothers who received prenatal care rose 36 percent from 1990 to 2000 and immunization rates in the county - 72 percent - exceeded the rates in the state and nation.
The report projected that the average salary in the county is expected to rise 6.2 percent from 2003 to 2005, rising from $45,242 to $48,028 a year.
The report found the rate of violent and serious property crimes per 100,000 population fell from about 5,000 in 1997 to 4,027 in 2002.
``We are very excited by the fact that this survey shows crime is down from 1997 to 2002,'' sheriff's Capt. John Franklin said.
The report also noted that the county has the highest concentration of visual, musical and performing artists in the nation, although New York City has more writers.
``I think it's interesting that we have been able to grow our arts employment sector to the extent we have without nearly as much infrastructure as New York City,'' said Laura Zucker, executive director of the county Arts Commission. ``The implications to me are that this is an ever-increasing employment sector for our economy and that we could reap even greater returns with more investment.''
Troy Anderson, (213) 974-8985