Public forum set on future of SDC
When the state Department of Public Health announced Dec. 12 that the Sonoma Developmental Center (SDC), California’s largest board-and-care facility for the severely disabled, would lose its primary license to operate, depriving the center of as much as $34 million a year in federal support, the shock waves reverberated through Sonoma Valley.
Now a free public forum, hosted by the Center for Investigative Reporting/California Watch and The Sonoma Index-Tribune, will explore the future of SDC, the changes and challenges it is going through and the impact of the center’s future on residents of the Sonoma Valley.
The forum will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 30, at Ramekins Culinary School and Event Center, 450 W. Spain St., Sonoma.
SDC employs some 1,400 people, occupies a scenic rural campus of some 1,000 acres, and has been a major part of the Valley’s culture and economy for most of a century.
The Public Health sanction followed an investigation by California Watch revealing how the center’s management and police force had failed to adequately investigate significant evidence of patient abuse.
Ongoing coverage by the Index-Tribune has further revealed the extent to which the facility has been out of compliance with state and federal care and safety standards and the apparent reluctance of the Department of Developmental Services to share basic information about staffing, patient statistics and decision making.
Patients at the center are among the state’s most vulnerable, suffering from cerebral palsy, severe autism and other mental, intellectual and physical disabilities.
The public forum will explore the projected consequences of the latest developments at SDC on the Valley, the City of Sonoma, the developmental center and the people who live in surrounding communities.
Highlighting the work of California Watch reporter Ryan Gabrielson, who will address the meeting, will be a panel discussion with community members and experts in the field moderated by Phil Bronstein, executive chairman of the Center for Investigative Reporting.
Index-Tribune editor and publisher David Bolling, will also address the forum.