SDC gets ‘stay of termination’
Since December, the Sonoma Developmental Center has teetered on the brink of decertification and losing its state license to operate. The Department of Developmental Services has continued the slow process of extracting the SDC from limbo with an agreement it entered into March 13 with the California Department of Public Health (CDPH).
In the wake of a series of serious abuse allegations, SDC received a notice from the CDPH on Dec. 12 that set a Jan. 4 deadline to correct major “deficiencies.” The deadline came and went, while DDS submitted appeals to the move to revoke its license and Federal Medicare and Medicaid funding for all the eligible 290 residents who live in its Intermediate Care Facility-Developmental Disabilities (ICF-DD) units. On Jan 17, four units within SDC were withdrawn from consideration for the funding, costing the center $1.37 million a month.
The agreement between DDS and CDPH preserves ICF funding for the remaining 178 residents in the units not withdrawn for the time being, and outlines general actions to be taken in a 22-page “Program Improvement Plan.” The plan applies only to the units Stoneman, Malone, Poppe, Bentley, Roadruck and Cohen, and “stay(s) the termination” for the units currently certified. The withdrawn units – Corcoran, Lathrop, Bernis and Smith – may be added to the plan once they are brought back into certification, but only after Stoneman, Malone, Poppe, Bentley, Roadruck, and Cohen are found to be in compliance with “all applicable Medicaid Conditions of Participation.”
The agreement outlines a timeline of evaluations conducted at 30-day milestones by an independent contractor, guidelines for the hiring of which is also outlined. The document, awash in acronyms and legalese, refers to the contractor as “Independent Consultative Review Experts,” for which it specifies the acronym “ICRE.”
The so-called ICRE will conduct a root-cause analysis of the problems that led to unsafe conditions at SDC and provide further details of the “action plan,” as well as provide assessments of the institution’s progress. DDS has 10 days from the date of the signing, March 13, to provide a Plan of Correction, for which it specifies the acronym POC, and 45 days to hire the contractor, and 30 days after that to submit an “Action Plan” to the CDPH, at which time various 30-, 60- and 90-day assessment milestones go into effect.
Failure to implement the Action Plan would constitute a breach of the agreement, the units would fall out of compliance and would be at risk of losing funding.