Lawmakers debate closing center for high-risk developmentally disabled people

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The California legislature is looking at the final proposal to shut down all of the remaining institutions of the Sonoma Developmental Center for the high-risk developmentally disabled in California.

The California legislature is looking at the final proposal to shut down all of the remaining institutions for the high-risk developmentally disabled in California.

Sonoma Developmental Center is nestled in the rural town of Eldridge in Sonoma County.

The sprawling facility is one of three large state-run institutions that care for patients with severe developmental disabilities.

"It's a legacy of caring and a place of really last resort for a lot of folks who have not been successful in community settings," said Kathleen Miller.

Miler is not only talking about many of the 350 residents here but about her severely autistic son Dan.

"He's been kicked out of every community board and care facility that he's lived in. He didn't like it in those facilities," she said.

Miller fears her son may be forced to live in one again if the state is shuts down Sonoma at the end of two years, and closes the other two facilities. One is the Central Valley and the other in Orange County by 2021.

The state plans to move residents to community based care in group homes. The advocacy group, Disability Rights California supports the idea, saying this is not just about saving money.

"We've seen from forty years of professional literature that when people move from developmental centers to the community, they're better off," explained Will Leiner with Disability Rights California.

Miller, who heads a group representing family members of residents, disagrees.

"The Brown administration basically, I think, wants to save money. That's the bottom line," said Miller.

The average cost of care for these patients, according to the legislative analyst's office, is half a million dollars a year per person.

Plus, closing Sonoma, for example, would open up 900 acres of prime real estate in Wine Country.

Related Topics:
newscalifornia legislationdisability issuesdisabilitysonoma countyjerry brownnapa countywine industryhealth caremedical
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