Thank you to the residents of Orange Park Acres who invited me and other candidates to a panel discussion yesterday on problems associated with the profusion of minor treatment group homes in the community.
There are now 9 teen rehabs operating within the 1.4 square miles of Orange Park Acres, an equestrian-oriented residential community with no sidewalks or street lights. Two more groups homes are pending.
If approved, there would be 11 group homes in this small community, all operated by the same owner, housing up to 66 children. At a cost of more than $1,000 per child per day, these 11 group homes could generate revenue of about $2 million per month to the owner.
Since 2017, law enforcement has responded to more than 200 emergency calls connected to these teen rehab group homes in Orange Park Acres, including more than 40 reports involving “missing juveniles” or runaways, and 17 calls for minors posing a danger to themselves or others.
Teens running away from the group homes in Orange Park Acres have been found hiding in foliage, behind garages, wandering at night in dark and dangerous streets, neighbors said. Some have appeared on front porches at the crack of dawn, pleading with neighbors to help them escape or call their parents.
The residents have had enough — but their efforts to get government to control the expansion of the group homes, or to solve the problems caused by their chronic mismanagement, have been frustrating at best.
In my view, solving these problems requires state legislation and enforcement, and the commitment of state resources. But our current local state legislators in this district have stood on the sidelines of decision-making in Sacramento, failing to bring anything back to our local communities to solve this problem and others.
Our voices have not been heard in the rooms where state decisions are made.
As a result, we’ve been unable to secure the legislation and resources necessary to control the expansion of group rehabs or effectively regulate their operations.
I look forward to working with community members and members of the state legislature to ensure the passage of legislation that effectively regulates the expansion and management of group homes, and that provides Orange Park Acres, and other Orange County community with the resources needed to keep group homes from exploiting their vulnerable teenage patients and negatively changing the character of our neighborhoods.