SDC gets deadline extended
The Jan. 4 deadline imposed on the Sonoma Developmental Center to achieve compliance with federal standards of care has been extended to an undetermined date in order to allow more time for an evaluation of the center’s corrective actions. The deadline was announced Dec. 12 after inspectors from the California Department of Public Health’s (CDPH) licensing division conducted a recertification review and tallied 57 “deficiencies,” including four conditions they said placed SDC residents in “immediate jeopardy.”
What those conditions were, was not disclosed and have still not been made public, although it was announced in a Dec. 12 press release that they included “deficient practices at the center that have harmed some residents.”
Those deficient practices sufficiently violated federal standards of care that they prompted action by CDPH to decertify the facility, an action that would result in the loss of $117,000 of federal funding per day, for each of 290 patients housed in the center’s Intermediate Care Facility. On an annual basis, the loss would amount to almost $34 million.
On Thursday, CDPH spokesman Ralph Montaño said the department “has extended the determination date to ensure that the surveying team has time to complete its evaluation.”
Montaño also confirmed that the state Department of Developmental Services (DDS) has filed an appeal of the CDPH suspension order. According to the CDPH press release, SDC “can continue operating during the appeal” under CDPH oversight.
SDC serves a patient population most recently listed as 517 individuals, with some 1,400 employees, more than a third of whom are “line of care” staff, who provide around-the-clock attention.
The unfolding allegations about SDC have troubled parents and guardians of patients housed there, because common parent experience is that most of the facility’s staff are hard-working, caring professionals whose positive efforts to provide a safe and caring environment are overshadowed by the reports of assault, rape and other forms of abuse.
In a tearful report to the Sonoma City Council on Monday night, Kathleen Miller, president of the SDC Parents Hospital Association, and mother of an autistic adult son at the Glen Ellen facility, said the situation there now is “very serious and pretty scary” for many residents of Sonoma. “It would be an unmitigated disaster if we don’t get our license back,” Miller said. Speaking of her son and other SDC residents, she added, “We don’t want them to be moved out of Sonoma.”
Miller said that years of staff reductions have led to a climate of “benign neglect,” but added that the alternative to SDC – relocating patients into small group homes – would not work for many, if not most, SDC patients.
“If clients act out in a community home, they can be taken out just like that. And there’s no place for them (to go).”
She added that SDC is now trying to hire more line of care staff and is currently filling 42 positions. But, said Miller, “You can’t fix it in a month or two. It takes more time.”
She urged council members and the audience to contact local legislators about the problem. “They’re going to hear about the problems (at SDC), but they’re not going to hear about the problems that would happen if the place is closed.”
Many, if not most, residents of the Intermediate Care Facility are generally considered to have behavioral issues making treatment and care more challenging and meaning, SDC sources say, that they are not good candidates for more independent living arrangements in small group homes.