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Meeting to weigh fate of Sonoma Developmental Center

  • Kathleen Miller and her son Dan Smith, who lives at the Sonoma Developmental Center, background, near Glen Ellen. (Kent Porter / Press Democrat, file May 2013)

Key decision makers are to gather Tuesday in Sacramento to discuss the future of the Sonoma Developmental Center, Sonoma Valley's largest employer and home to nearly 500 severely disabled residents.

State Sen. Noreen Evans convened the meeting, which follows on the Jan. 13 release of a report by a state task force that called for dramatically downsizing all four of California's developmental centers.

“This is really an opportunity for the legislative representatives to have some input,” said Evans, a Santa Rosa Democrat.

“There are a lot of issues identified about patient safety and we're going to update on that,” she said.

Meeting participants will also review the task force's recommendations — among them creating small, community-based care centers and crisis-intervention facilities to replace the current model of round-the-clock, care — “and see what the next steps are,” Evans said.

The future of the Sonoma center involves two central questions:

- What happens to its 460 residents, many of whom have spent most of their lives there?

- What is to become of the 1,553-acre, state-owned property? (600 acres were transferred to the state parks department in 2002.)

Evans said she expects to author spot legislation out of the meeting — essentially a placeholder to fill with legislative language to be established later.

Among those invited are Diana Dooley, secretary of the state Health and Human Services Agency; 1st District Sonoma County Supervisor Susan Gorin, who represents Sonoma Valley; Santi Rogers, incoming director of the state Department of Developmental Services; Assemblyman Marc Levine, D-San Rafael; and Assemblywoman Mariko Yamada, D-Davis, whose district includes the Eldridge facility.

Representatives of the residents, who have had a long and often distrustful relationship with the developmental services department, said they would have liked to have been told about the meeting and perhaps invited.

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