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It was a bittersweet goodbye Saturday when several dozen parents, siblings and other conservators of people still living at Sonoma Developmental Center gathered tearfully for the last time on the Eldridge campus.

The Parent Hospital Association, which has fought, often fiercely, for the rights and care of residents since the 1970s — frequently raising their voices in Sacramento — mourned their lost battle to keep at least a part of the center open for clients with severe medical and behavior issues they fear the community isn’t equipped to handle.

But they also made their last on-campus meeting a time to recognize people they called “Heroes with Heart.” Honorees included a half-dozen lawmakers and advocates who they say have helped ensure that the welfare of the center’s remaining residents stays at the forefront as the state presses forward with plans to close it at the end of the year.

The decision to close the facility was made official in 2015 for budgetary and quality-of-care reasons, and after embarrassing revelations about cases of sexual assault by developmental center staff.

The group singled out state senators Mike McGuire, D-Healdsburg and Bill Dodd, D-Napa, whose districts each include parts of the 860-acre campus, and Supervisor Susan Gorin, who represents Sonoma Valley. They also recognized Richard Dale of the Sonoma Ecology Center and John McCaull of the Sonoma Land Trust, who have been working with a coalition of interested groups including the county, to try to keep some services for the developmentally disabled on the site and to ease the impact of the closure on residents and employees as well as to make sure the prime property at the base of Sonoma Mountain, which includes a multitude of buildings as well as vast open spaces, trails, a camp and a lake, is preserved and maintained in some form for public use.

Kathleen Miller, co-president of the parent group, whose son, Danny, is autistic and suffers from mental illness, had pushed for the state to set aside some part of the aging campus for a treatment center for people like her son who she believes will have a hard time adjusting in the community. The state instead, is creating four homes sprinkled throughout the greater Bay Area especially equipped to deal with clients with difficult behavior problems, McGuire said.

But Miller thanked officials for trying and called out Gorin for pushing hard.

“Susan never stopped talking about that position. It wasn’t always a popular position to take but Susan is not a person that is deterred in her commitment and her belief by what is politically expedient,” she said.

They claimed one victory with the opening last week in Santa Rosa of an $11.5 million comprehensive health care clinic especially geared to people with developmental disabilities and headed up by Dr. Anne French, who was a physician at SDC for 11 years. The parents group included in their day of thanks Naomi Fuchs, the chief executive officer of Santa Rosa Community Health, for helping to see it to fruition.

“It goes to our core values and mission that health care is a fundamental right for all people and that everyone deserve the same opportunity for a full and meaningful life,” Fuchs told the group of largely older and elderly family advocates, many of whom have been watching out for the welfare of their disabled children and siblings at SDC for decades.

Many are fearful about what lies ahead for their loved ones. There are still 139 residents living on the sprawling campus just south of the village of Glen Ellen. They have not yet been placed in homes in the community. Some have promised spots, others are still waiting. And some have been promised homes only to have the plans fall through.

Rev. Tom Chesterman, an Episcopalian clergyman and longtime center chaplain, whose son, Tim, has lived at SDC for more than 40 years, said he learned on Friday that the home Tim was slated to move into in June was no longer available.

“When Tim was 2 days old, I baptized him with a medicine dropper in an incubator because we weren’t sure if he was going to live,” he said Saturday, his voice breaking. “I don’t know now how his life will be. I do know how his life has been. Now I’m scared again about the possibility of losing him.”

Although the state has stood firm in its commitment to close SDC, one of only three remaining state developmental centers and the oldest, McGuire, D-Healdsburg, pledged it won’t happen before every resident has a comprehensive plan and is placed.

He said skyrocketing housing costs and market competition was making it difficult for the state to secure enough homes to meet the residential care demands of all the clients exiting the state’s last three developmental centers.

“The state was being outbid by cash offers in many of the nine Bay Area counties,” he said. “So the state now has additional funding to put down larger down payments to secure those homes for Sonoma Developmental Center residents.” There are currently 107 residential projects identified, half of them completed and open for operation, he said.

Many family advocates fear that residents not yet placed will be rushed into inappropriate settings as the deadline approaches. McGuire pledged that won’t happen. “The commitment remains the same. Sonoma Developmental Center will remain fully operational as long as there are residents living on this sacred site. We’re not going to do it fast. We’re going to do it right.”

He assured the group, which will continue to meet off-site at nearby Hanna Boys Center, the state has promised to conduct a three-year study of residents leaving the center to see if their needs are being met.

“The lessons learned from previous closures,” he said, “is that we need a formal evaluation process about residents and their success in the community.”

Meanwhile, the results of a $2.1 million study assessing the facilities at SDC, will soon be released. That information will be key to shaping a plan for the future use of the site.

Local advocates envision some kind of mixed use like the Presidio in San Francisco. McGuire said there will be a community workshop held later this spring.

Dale, who heads the Sonoma Ecology Center headquartered at SDC, said there is no indication the state is interested in selling off the site in the heart of the Wine Country for large-scale development but advocates are taking nothing for granted.

“Our legislators are determined that won’t happen,” he said. “But we don’t know what happens after this administration, if there is a different governor, a different agenda, a different cabinet with different priorities and suddenly this place is going to be seen as a place where revenue can be generated by some kind of lease or sale that would compromise the landscape here.”

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