No decisions from SDC meeting


A top-level meeting of legislators and state officials in Sacramento on Tuesday was not intended to produce decisions about the future of the Sonoma Developmental Center (SDC), and no actions were taken.

That according to 1st District Supervisor Susan Gorin, who attended the meeting, along with state Sen. Noreen Evans, D-Santa Rosa, Assemblymember Mariko Yamada, D-Davis, Assemblymember Marc Levine, D-San Rafael, Diana Dooley, secretary of the California Health and Human Services Agency and Santi Rogers, newly appointed director of the Department of Developmental Services (DDS), which has direct control over SDC.

“There was, essentially, nothing discussed at the meeting,” Gorin said. “Senator Evans asked for the meeting to get the status of the action plan at SDC, but no timelines were discussed, no future conversations were planned about how this would play out. There’s no big story.”

Gorin added that both Yamada and Evans are planning to introduce spot legislation shortly that can be amended with specific action steps when plans for the facility become clearer.

“I’m looking at the final report of the Task Force recommendations, and I want to initiate conversations with the regional centers. I think they will have a great deal of influence” on future SDC decisions, she said.

Regional centers are private, nonprofit corporations that contract with DDS to provide services and support for developmentally disabled clients. There are 21 regional centers in the state, and the two closest to SDC are the North Bay Regional Center in Napa and the Golden Gate Regional Center in San Francisco.

A task force of stakeholders concluded a two-month review of Developmental Center policy and resources, and issued a report in January recommending that most of the 463 residents at SDC be eventually transferred into smaller group home facilities. Such a step would precipitate decisions about disposition of the 1,000-acre property, the fate of the approximately 1,200 employees at the facility and the safety and comfort of residents, many of whom have severe medical and behavioral conditions. Gorin reiterated her intention to explore future scenarios that would preserve some services, and possibly smaller, more compact residential housing on the existing campus.

Well over 200,000 developmentally disabled clients are serviced statewide outside the remaining developmental centers, largely through the resources of regional centers.

But a number of concerned parents and guardians with family members at SDC continue to question the wisdom of simply closing the facility. Kathleen Miller, who is president of the SDC Parent Hospital Association, questions whether outside vendors and private group homes can provide the specialized care and medical attention many SDC residents require.

“Developmental center families are being told not to worry,” Miller wrote in a recent statement. “We are being told that alternative placements can handle our loved ones without problems. They do it every day. But Sonoma families are still very worried.”

Meanwhile, Gorin said, she is participating in discussions between DDS and the county’s Regional Parks with hopes that the lower campus of SDC can be incorporated into the County’s Sonoma Valley Regional Park in Glen Ellen. Further discussions are planned to explore transferring the upper acreage, which covers the flank of Sonoma Mountain, to Jack London State Historical Park.

  • Mary O’Riordan

    It’s just ironic that the legislators, the Department of Health and Human Services and the Regional Centers continue down the same path in spite of the evidence of the poor services in most board and care homes and group homes. At these meetings they all seem more concerned about what happens to the land than what happens to the unfortunate developmentally disabled people.
    It sounds like they are already making plans for the land – the greedy and self-serving as usual are the ones making all the decisions. This property was purchased years ago by two parents so that their feeble minded children could have a safe place in which to live out their lives. It is needed just as much today as it was then and even more so. In the most recent evaluation of the private homes that I know of – it was done by Dr. Place of the California State University in Sacramento where Dr. Place clearly stated that those removed from the developmental centers lose valuable resources, such as medical care, dental care, friendships, professional care, recreation therapy, oversight for medications. They for the most part have none of this in private homes and the death rate is so much higher. We also have the Dr. Strauss report that showed the mortality rate as much as 72% higher for those who were removed from the developmental centers as compared to those who stayed.
    Yes, with all of this knowledge they continue to do the same. Governor Brown is this what you want for the most vulnerable among us? Come on!!! This can’t continue.

  • The Village Idiot

    This same conversation took place under then-governor Reagan, whose great idea was to close the hospitals for the mentally ill and “integrate them into their communities for treatment.” Even an Idiot can look under the bridges, in the woods, in the streets and doorways of rural and urban America and see how well that is working out.

    Something similar will happen to the patients at SDC. The only reason the population there is
    declining is because the state has stopped admitting new patients, not because wombs, wars and accidents stopped churning out human beings who desperately need SDC.

    It was irony (or poetic justice) that Reagan died with an illness that, had he been born with it, would have qualified him as severely developmentally disabled. Had he and his 1%-er family
    not had the wherewithal (including the free big government medical care he despised)
    he would have needed the care and expertise of a place like SDC. Instead, he died in luxury at home, his needs well tended & his dignity safeguarded, while much-lower-paid caregivers
    (not Nancy!) changed his diapers, wiped his butt and spoon-fed him.

    Everyone in the Valley knows politically well-connected developers and special interests have their eye on SDC and won’t be denied. Their PAC-funded Sacramento pals – Democrats this
    time – will see to it. In tribute to SDC residents who will be thrown out on the tender mercies of non-existent facilities in the community or into privatized for-profit hell-holes, they’ll set aside a few SDC acres for the birds & raccoons, name the new shopping center, housing development or casino after one of the species whose habitat is wiped out by the construction, paint it all Green, and open the good wine for a toast.

    It all begs the question: Of the patients, politicians, administrators, bureaucrats, special interests and journalists in this tale, who are the most severely developmentally disabled?

    • Mary O’Riordan

      So well said – when will they listen – when will they stop going down the same path?