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News: 03/15/2017

Santa Rosa to expand medical services for former SDC residents

SDC clients moving out slower than expected

Santa Rosa Community Health Centers will develop and operate a new health center specializing in medical services for the severely developmentally disabled population, many of whom are being relocated due to the Federal withdrawal of support for institutional hospitals, including the Sonoma Developmental Center (SDC).

Federal money will be available to help support the new medical facility, in addition to nine other Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHC) in the Sonoma County area.

The new facility will be located at 1300 N. Dutton Ave. and is expected to serve up to 7,000 North Bay residents, including up to 1,000 developmentally disabled clients.

“Sonoma Developmental Center has served people with developmental disabilities since 1891, and as we prepare for its closure, we want to assure parents, families and our community that NBRC is prepared for former residents to continue receiving the highest level of health care services and supports,” said Bob Hamilton, executive director of North Bay Regional Center.

California has shut down all but three of its developmental centers. Over the past 20 years the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services have withdrawn federal support for institutionally-housed developmentally disabled people, following a policy of housing this population in small group homes scattered throughout the community. But the intense medical needs of those still remaining at SDC, Porterville in Tulare County, and Fairview in Orange County, are difficult to provide for in scattered communities.

According to Hamilton, former SDC residents with higher levels of medical need will be provided a full range of medical, dental and behavioral support services on site, including primary care, dental services (including sedation dentistry), psychiatry, behavioral health, and physical therapy.

“SRCHC is committed to making the transition of care as smooth as possible for the clients, families and providers,” said Naomi Fuchs, CEO of Santa Rosa Community Health Centers, in a written statement.

“SRCHC will work closely with SDC so that current SDC staff, including physicians, nurses, and other staff who would like to work at the new health center have an opportunity to do so either through direct employment or through a contract with the State.”

SRCHC’s Dutton Health Center is scheduled to begin providing services in December 2017.

Rate of placement not as fast as expected

Gov. Brown’s initial proposed budget for 2016-2017 was released in January and will be revised in May.

Last week, the California Legislative Analyst office (CLA) noted that the number of patients who have been moved out of SDC isn’t as high as projected in last year’s budget considerations.

After federal funds were withdrawn, the legislature voted to close the remaining developmental centers (to all but a handful of clients with behavior issues in Porterville), setting a deadline of Dec. 31, 2018, for closing the Sonoma center. This is faster by two years than any other closure was ever accomplished, and involves more severely disabled patients than at previously closed centers. Many of their most severely disabled clients were sent to Sonoma.

Fiscal and policy analyst Sonja Petek works SDC’s budget for the CLA. She noted that there were 21 fewer transitions than estimated last year. Petek said that of the 300 remaining clients throughout the system who need to be transferred out of the centers, nearly half live in Sonoma.

“We have fiscal concerns,” Petek said. “Developmental Center budgets rely increasingly on state funds. A relatively small share comes from the federal government.”

The Legislative Analyst report is available online at


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