Future of Sonoma Developmental Center under review

A state task force set up to propose future scenarios for California’s four remaining Developmental Centers is expected to complete its work by the end of the year, but not by its November target date.

That according to Kathleen Miller, a task force member and president of the Parent Hospital Association at the Sonoma Developmental Center (SDC). Miller’s group advocates on behalf of the facility’s residents, whose number had dropped to 476 by late September from more than 1,200 15 years ago.

Miller said the conclusions that can be reasonably drawn from the discussions held on a monthly basis since July are that, on the one hand, SDC won’t be sold by the state to private developers but that, on the other hand, its mission and resident population will likely change. What that change will be isn’t yet clear, Miller said, but it is not likely to happen quickly.

That there is a high-level strategy conversation occurring at the highest levels of state government is further evidence that the century-old system of large, state-run residential treatment facilities for the developmentally disabled, is inching toward some kind of closure.

Miller believes that the effort will be made to transition as many SDC residents as possible out of the 863-acre campus nestled at the edge of Glen Ellen and into community-based care facilities sometimes called group living homes. Currently, Miller said, there are about 200 “medical” residents at SDC, requiring varying degrees of specialized medical attention. One school of thinking reflected in the task force discussions, Miller explained, is the belief that most, if not all, of the medical residents can be transferred into group homes, which are usually run by private, for-profit corporations.

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