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SDC closure plan released

Calling the input received from Sonoma Developmental Center stakeholders “the first essential phase of the closure planning process,” the Department of Developmental Services released an 80-page draft of its closure plan for SDC late Tuesday, Sept. 15. Yet the draft, upon initial review, holds out little hope for an extended timeline for the venerable Eldridge facility, or endorsement of any innovative approaches to the residents, employees or property at the Developmental Center.

The document is publicly available as a PDF downloadable from the web at dds.ca.gov/sonomanews/. There will be a public testimony session to be held Monday, Sept. 21 at the Renaissance Lodge on Broadway, starting at 9 a.m.

The plan covers strategies for not only the residents of the 120-year-old developmental center – the individuals with developmental disabilities – but also the current employees of SDC and the future uses of the 1,000-acre property.

While the draft does propose operating a health resource center and clinic services at SDC for the extended transition period, the attached timeline for implementation of the closure process holds to the December 2018 deadline the Governor set in May of this year.

As they have throughout this process, the department insists that the current residents at SDC will not be moved out “until appropriate services and supports identified in their Individual Program Plan are available in the community.” Yet, nothing on a first reading of the draft suggests there is any contingency under which current residents will be allowed to stay in the SDC facility beyond the deadline just over three years away.

Considerable attention is also given to the fate of more than 1,300 full- and part-time employees at SDC, such as opening a Career Center to provide support for each employee in finding comparable employment within or outside the Department of Developmental Services.

The report’s physical-infrastructure examination of the campus shows considerable seismic safety deficits, functional inadequacies and even shortcomings in ADA compliance.

None of this is surprising to those familiar with the aged and underfunded Eldridge facility.

The report does reiterate the department’s pledge that, “It is not the intention of the state to declare SDC’s property as surplus, but instead to identify how the property can best be utilized.” In addition, the report says the Department of Developmental Services “is willing to discuss opportunities for public/private partnerships for the provision of community services,” though budgetary constraints limit the department’s ability in many cases.

Still, many of the public’s suggestions for future use of the SDC campus and facilities are gently rebuffed as being outside the established range of the department’s approved services, subject to legislative approval and budget, or at variance with the federal and state requirements.

“SDC has significant infrastructure problems,” the report states. “Upgrading the facility would cost, at a minimum, hundreds of millions of dollars to develop homes or services that would likely not be eligible for federal reimbursement.”

There will be what the department describes as a “second public testimony” on Monday, Sept. 21 at the Renaissance Lodge at Sonoma, 1325 Broadway (at Leveroni and Napa Roads). The meeting will run from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and will include a call-in conference line at (866) 261-7147 so people who cannot attend the hearing can listen and contribute.

Testimony offered at that ?time will ostensibly be considered in finalizing the closure plan to be submitted by Oct. 1, 2015, for legislative approval.

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