Chrissy Wilka’s house on Baird Road in Santa Rosa’s Rincon Valley neighborhood is classified as an ICF/DD-CNC — an intermediate care facility with 24-hour continuous skilled nursing care for those with developmental disabilities.
For Wilka, 29, who’s had severe cerebral palsy all her life, the Baird House is just home. Her bedroom walls are decorated with photos of her family, and images of her favorite movie stars and musicians, which she prints out at the Rincon Valley Regional Library.
The Montgomery High School graduate often visits friends in the neighborhood, spends weekend afternoons at Rincon Valley Community Park and sometimes gets lunch with her parents at Oliver’s Market on Montecito Boulevard.
But the 24-hour care she receives is going away; Baird House is scheduled to close this year. The reason is the state reimburses the 25-year-old facility at half the monthly rate per resident it does similar homes created by the state Legislature in 2005.
The monthly, per-resident reimbursement Baird House gets from Medi-Cal through the state Department of Health Care Services ranges from $11,564 to $13,588 a month per individual, according to North Bay Regional Center, the state’s contractor that provides case management and family support services to Sonoma Development Center residents.
By comparison, the continuous care facilities developed by state law receive a median reimbursement of $22,636 a month per resident. These homes are called Adult Residential Facilities for Persons with Special Health Care Needs and are licensed by Community Care Licensing, a division of the state Department of Social Services.
Those familiar with both models of care say Baird House actually provides a higher level of care than the newer adult residential facilities. Baird House’s Medi-Cal rates were set back in 2000 and have increased little since, said Russell Schreiber, a Sonoma County psychologist who founded Baird House in 1993 with his wife, also a psychologist.
Schreiber, who sold Baird House to California Mentor in 2006, said the home is a model of care that is greatly underfunded.
The couple founded the home at a time when there were “quite a few” children at the Sonoma Developmental Center. Schreiber said he proposed to the state setting up a home for the medically fragile children there.
“SDC wasn’t able to give those children any quality of life at all given the staff-to-client ratio,” Schreiber said.
He said he and his wife cut a deal with the North Bay Regional Center under which the center supplemented Baird House’s Medi-Cal payment with additional funds, he said. That funding was written into law when the state created a new class of facility that provided continuous care for people with developmental disabilities and branded it ICF/DD-CNC.
Baird House was one of seven such homes in the state set up as pilots. Schreiber said the homes saved the state as much as 50 percent per resident.
“When these individuals were in developmental centers, the cost was in the neighborhood of $150,000 a year” for each resident, he said. At that time in homes like Baird House, the cost was about $75,000 a year per resident.
California Mentor announced earlier this year that without increased state funding it would be forced to close the facility by the end of the year. That would mean moving Wilka and her five roommates to some other facility with continuous nursing care.