Coalition wants to continue providing critical services to SDC population post-closure

May 3, 2016:

The decision to close the Sonoma Developmental Center (SDC), as well as the rest of the state’s centers for the developmentally disabled, poses three large questions: what to do with the extremely medically fragile clients living there now; what to do with the highly trained staff who take care of them; and what to do with the incredibly valuable open space that surrounds the campus.

A coalition of government and nonprofit organizations have gotten out in front of state agencies, proposing a plan to…

To read more on this article that looks at answers for SDC after closure, please click on the link provided below.

Looking for answers after SDC’s closure

Provided courtesy of The Kenwood Press, by Jay Gamel.

Sonoma County Proposes Health Resource Center for SDC Campus

April 14, 2016:

The community vision for the future of the Sonoma Development Center (SDC) is rooted in the Center’s legacy of care for people with developmental disabilities. The state’s plan for closing the facility by 2018 as a residential care hospital has left hundreds of families struggling with life-changing decisions about where to move loved ones, and where to find adequate health care services outside of SDC.

The SDC Closure Plan promised that no residents will be moved from SDC “until appropriate services and supports identified in their Individual Program Plan (IPP) are available in the community.” For decades SDC has provided a completely integrated care model for its residents. The stark reality is that there is a vast gap in the type and extent of “appropriate services” currently provided by SDC versus those available in the community care system.

Since the formation of the SDC Coalition, Supervisor Susan Gorin and Sonoma County have provided outstanding leadership to our community, and multiple county agencies have dedicated significant staff time to the Transform SDC Project. In particular the Sonoma County Department of Health Services has taken the lead in developing a ground-breaking concept for a new service model that is community-based; developed through public-private partnerships; and is able to serve as a regional-hub providing high quality health care services to individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

After several months of research and discussion with key stakeholders, the SDC Coalition is pleased to announce the release of a proposal for the creation of a “Health Disability Resource Center” that would ideally be located on the SDC campus. As the proposal states:

“The overriding priority of the State, the County, the SDC Coalition, and the guardians and families of those who live at SDC is the health and well-being the SDC residents. Ensuring a system of care is in place to care for SDC residents as they are transitioned into the community is a commitment that is articulated throughout the State’s Closure Plan, unanimously voiced at every public meeting, steadfastly supported by the County and SDC Coalition, and most importantly, is a commitment we all share. The development of a Health Disability Resource Center does not run counter to this commitment, but supports it – designed to ensure that before those who have been cared for most of their lives in a state-run facility, will be cared for when they move into the community. By following this strategic plan, together we can build a Health Disability Resource Center that will support and serve individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.”

The Health Disability Resource Center concept is forming the basis of our advocacy efforts in Sacramento for 2016, and we will continue to provide briefings on the progress of this effort in the coming months as the Legislature makes a final decision on approving the SDC Closure Plan, and approving budget appropriations to implement the Plan.

Additional information on the Health Disability Resource Center provided below.
SDC Transition Plan – Health Disability Resource Center Summary
SDC Transition Plan – Health Disability Resource Center

California’s Last Developmental Centers

March 10, 2016:

The final countdown has begun for the last of three large state-run institutions that care for the severely disabled: In less than six years, almost all of their residents are likely to be transferred to other settings.

It’s the end of a long era in providing care to people in large institutional settings.

The public comment period ended last week on a plan to move 776 patients currently housed at the three development centers into smaller community-based homes. The state expects the move to save it roughly $250 million a year.

Please click on the link provided below to read more of this article.

California’s Last Institutions for Developmentally Disabled to be Closed

Provided courtesy of KQED News website, by David Gorn at California Healthline.
This story was produced by Kaiser Health News, which publishes California Healthline, a service of the California Health Care Foundation.

Overview of McGuire’s Hearing

March 1, 2016:

Last Tuesday, McGuire’s joint hearing consisted of a lot of questions directed towards state health administrators. It was heard from the major participants who have been involved with this developing topic on the uncertain future of the most fragile and at-risk, developmentally disabled people at the remaining DCs of Sonoma, Fairview and Porterville.

Some of the key topics that came up were:

  • Not enough time or money for transition
  • Community care homes not ready
  • Special services needed for severely disabled

Please click on the article provided below for a better understanding of the hearing.

SDC closure status raises more questions than answers

Provided courtesy of The Kenwood Press, by Jay Gamel.

Agenda and Detailed Background Report Released for Senate Oversight Hearing on Closure of Remaining Developmental Centers

February 22, 2016:

The Senate Human Services Committee and the Senate Budget Subcommittee on Health and Human Services will conduct an oversight hearing tomorrow at 1:30 pm on the proposed closure of California’s remaining developmental centers and the “Impact on Residents, Families and the Regional Center System.” The Committees have released a thorough background paper and agenda for the hearing which we have attached to this post. If you are interested in tuning in remotely, you can watch a live video stream or listen to an audio stream of the hearing. Just go to: and scroll down to the hearing and click “Watch” or “Listen.”

Various representatives from the Transform SDC Project will be attending the hearing, and we will provide a full summary later this week.

DC Closure Oversight Hearing Agenda

DC Closure Oversight Hearing Background Paper

State Senator Mike McGuire to Convene Hearing

February 19, 2016:

The purpose of next week’s joint hearing in Sacramento is to discuss the lessons learned from previous closures of developmental centers, to examine the proposal for the closure of California’s three remaining Developmental Centers and to receive an in-depth briefing from the DDS on the closure process.

The Joint Hearing of the Senate Human Services Committee and the Health and Human Services Budget Subcommittee will be held on at 1:30 pm Tuesday, February 23, at the State Capitol in Room 4203. The public is invited to attend. To watch via livestream, visit

Please click on the link below to read the following article.

State’s developmental centers to be reviewed in Sacramento by McGuire, others

Provided courtesy of the Sonoma Index-Tribune staff report.

February 2016 SDC Update: Sustaining Commitment through the Ups and Downs

February 11, 2016:

“Even cowards can endure hardship; only the brave can endure suspense.”
Mignon McLaughlin

In this political season, the word “campaign” is everywhere, and we all know how the script can dramatically change from week to week. In 2015, the rapid pace of change related to the Sonoma Developmental Center (SDC) demanded sustained action and focus from all of us. Galvanized by the closure announcement in May, the Transform SDC Project, the SDC Coalition and the community at large rallied and worked together in what felt like non-stop fashion through the completion of the closure plan last October.

The proposed closure of SDC by the end of 2018 is likely too short a timeframe to safely move the remaining 375 residents, and to plan a future for the site that meets the vision of the Sonoma community. We have to plan for a multi-year campaign that may extend well beyond the next two years. Like any lengthy, complicated undertaking, there are going to be periods of intense activity, and there are going to be lulls. Lulls are difficult. It can seem like nothing is happening. Even worse, it can seem like no one cares anymore. The flurry of very public activity may have temporarily diminished, but the daily work is continuing both locally, and in Sacramento.

The Transform SDC Project continues to retain the Center for Collaborative Policy and the Potrero Group to guide our community organizing, and to engage in technical analysis of different models for creating a financially and environmentally sustainable reuse plan for the site that remains in harmony with the surrounding community. We have also been working closely with our political leaders at the County level and in Sacramento to develop a political strategy for the upcoming budget hearings, and the Legislature’s consideration of whether to approve the closure plan.

Here’s recap of what’s happened over the last few months, and a preview of where we are headed:

  • The closure plan was submitted to the Legislature in late October, which is during their fall-winter recess. The Legislature reconvened in early January, so look for action alerts or updates from us on a regular basis.
  • As we enter 2016, we have been analyzing our options and next steps. For instance, Sonoma County has commissioned a feasibility study of whether a health clinic could be operated at SDC for people with developmental disabilities who live in the North Bay. Additionally, the Transform SDC Project leadership team (Sonoma County, Parent Hospital Association, Sonoma Land Trust and the Sonoma Ecology Center) is identifying how we can best follow up on the recommendations of the Potrero Group’s Site Transformation Study.
  • The Governor submitted his Fiscal Year 2016-2017 draft budget to the Legislature in early January, and the budget committees will start debating the approval of the SDC closure plan and closure-related expenditures by the Dept. of Developmental Services in early March. This will be the time when we will likely need community letter writing and grassroots engagement to ensure that our many recommendations for the future of SDC are considered and supported.
  • We are developing a database of all the comment letters filed as part of the public comment period on the closure plan. Many of you wrote letters that detailed the stories and experiences of your family members who live at SDC, or that articulate your vision for the future of the site. We do not want all your hard work and ideas to get lost in the shuffle, so we are combing through the hundreds of comment letters to make sure we know what was said, and to capture the stories that describe why the care provided at SDC has been so important to so many people.

It may feel like this whole effort has been “keeping you in suspense,” and that’s an uncomfortable state for all of us, and especially for the families with loved ones at SDC. Please know that we are still 100% committed to realizing the community’s vision for SDC, and that we will continue to provide information and leadership as we enter a more active stage of this campaign in the coming months.

Thank you for all your activism and support of the last year, and let’s be ready to come together again on behalf of the people, staff and land of SDC.

John McCaull
Land Acquisition Program Manager
Sonoma Land Trust
Samantha Thomas
Community Planning Coordinator
Sonoma Land Trust

A Pledge to the Community: Transform SDC Project Prepares Advocacy Strategy for 2016

December 23, 2015:

The Sonoma Developmental Center (SDC) has touched so many lives. A mention of SDC invariably prompts a story of how this incredible facility has been a source of inspiration to our community for generations. 2015 has undoubtedly been a very challenging year for the residents, staff and families of SDC. The state’s announcement in May that they intend to close the Center by the end of 2018 is a life changing decision that will impact hundreds of families and SDC employees. As the Center readies for its 125 year anniversary in 2016, there are many who wonder what the future will bring.

When we publicly launched the Transform SDC Project in early 2015, we did not anticipate the pending closure announcement in May. Based on a January 2014 Report issued by the California Department of Health and Human Services, we knew that the state intended to “transition” away from being the operator of historically large residential living facilities for people with developmental disabilities. When the federal government rejected the state’s appeal of a decision to decertify seven patient units at SDC and strip their Medicaid funding over findings that care for hundreds of disabled patients was deficient, the closure process was put on the fast track. The 2018 closure timeline was formalized in a July settlement agreement between the State of California and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), and the state subsequently submitted a draft closure plan to the California Legislature in October. If you need a refresher for what is in the closure plan vis-à-vis community input, please review the comparison chart on our blog site.

The closure plan makes a commitment that the state will “work with the SDC Coalition, Sonoma County and other interested parties to identify potential options for the future use of the SDC campus… and to explore future services that could perhaps be provided at SDC.” This is a promising opening on the part of the state, but there are some critical, unresolved issues that need detailed answers:

  • What existing health care operations will continue past closure?
  • What new health care programs is the state willing to consider and possibly implement concurrent with the closure process?
  • What is the mechanism (both interim and permanent) to protect the open space and natural resource lands of SDC?
  • What is the state’s role in the formation of an SDC Advisory Council and a potential “trust” organization to govern the transformation/reuse process after closure?
  • What strategy will ensure the long-term financial sustainability of a transformed SDC?

As we prepare for 2016, the first order of business is the Legislature’s consideration and approval of the draft closure plan. The plan is not “official” until endorsed by the Legislature, and this will likely happen as part of the approval process for the 2016-2017 state budget. The Legislature reconvenes in early January, and our local coalition will be working closely with our state elected officials to develop a cohesive, unified set of priorities that will guide our advocacy and community organizing. Expect to see a summary of our advocacy strategy in early January.

It’s been a tough year, but the Sonoma Land Trust is committed to continuing the Transform SDC Project in close coordination with our many partners. The Project Steering Committee is made up of Sonoma County Supervisor Susan Gorin, Kathleen Miller of the Parent Hospital Association, Richard Dale of the Sonoma Ecology Center, and John McCaull from Sonoma Land Trust. There are many community groups and individuals too numerous to mention who have volunteered, attended and testified at hearings and educated their friends, families and community about the importance of SDC. We are all stronger together, and please know that the support of each and every one of you is making a difference.

Finally, we would like to give some special thanks during this holiday season. The Transform SDC Project would not exist without the generous financial support of Impact100 Sonoma, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, the Resources Legacy Fund, the Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District, the Sonoma County Department of Health Services, Sonoma County Regional Parks Department, the Sonoma County Water Agency, and several donors from the community who have made major gifts to the Sonoma Land Trust on behalf of our Project. The Parent Hospital Association has also made significant contributions from its internal budget to the overall effort. With this funding, we have been able to retain the services of the following top-notch professionals and consulting firms:

  • Baseline Consulting
  • Center for Collaborative Policy
  • Conservation Strategy Group
  • Greenberg Traurig, LLP
  • Potrero Group
  • Prunuske Chatham, Inc.
  • Tom Origer & Associates
  • UC Berkeley- Hopland Research and Extension Center (Adina Merenlander and Morgan Gray)
  • Shute, Mihaly & Weinberger

Happy Holidays to all of you, and we will be back strong in the New Year!

John McCaull                                                                                         Samantha Thomas
Land Acquisition Program Manager                                                 Community Planning Coordinator
Sonoma Land Trust                                                                                  Sonoma Land Trust


Senator McGuire to Host SDC Town Hall Follow-up Meeting this Saturday, December 19th

December 16, 2015:

Correction:This meeting is only for families and members of the Parent Hospital Association and SDC employees. Apologies for any confusion.

This Saturday, December 19th, Senator Mike McGuire will host a public meeting at the Sonoma Developmental Center’s Gymnasium located at 15000 Arnold Drive, Eldridge, CA 95431 at 10 a.m. This gathering is a follow up meeting to the Senator’s Town Hall Meeting that he hosted back in August, and he and his staff have prepared a response to many of the questions and concerns raised at that meeting.

Please come out for an update on the current situation related to the SDC closure plan, and anticipated next steps for 2016.

Decreasing Aid For People With Developmental Disabilities

December 15, 2015:

“The Arc is a national nonprofit with chapters across the country that offer programs and services for people with developmental disabilities. “It means a lot to me,” Palone says. “It gets me out of the house, and it helps me interact with people.”

But in California, aid for people with developmental disabilities is decreasing due to lack of funding for these programs. Please click on the link below to read more about this developing issue.

In California, Aid Withers For People With Developmental Disabilities

Provide courtesy of NPR from KQED, by Melissa Hellmann.