Sonoma County has opened its first social services center outside Santa Rosa — a 16,000-square-foot office in Petaluma that county officials hope will better serve residents in the south county.

To date, the county’s social services — including child welfare, adult protective services, in-home support services and eligibility services for Medi-Cal, CalFresh and CalWORKs — have all been centralized in Santa Rosa offices. Some who live outside Santa Rosa, particularly older or disabled residents, will do without such services because of the distance, officials said.

“Some people don’t have access to transportation and some people, frankly, don’t like to leave their neighborhood,” said Karen Fies, director of the county’s Human Services Department.

Sonoma County is one of the only populous counties in the state that has all of its social services offices consolidated in one city, Fies said.

The move — which relocates 45 of the department’s 950 employees to Petaluma — is part of a larger plan to begin placing social service hubs in key areas of the county.

“Ideally, we would like to set up additional services sites in other areas, including Sonoma Valley, Cloverdale (and) west county,” she said.

The Petaluma office, at 5350 Old Redwood Highway, Suite 100, will offer all of the county’s social services. In Santa Rosa, the services are offered at several different locations.

Fies said the county recently renegotiated a better deal on its lease for a building on Airport Boulevard in Santa Rosa that houses Adult and Aging services.

The savings is being used to offset the cost of renting the space in Petaluma, which Fies said was “reasonably priced.”

The office has been open since April 26. Since that time, social services staff has seen 225 clients, Fies said.

Supervisor David Rabbitt, whose district includes southern Sonoma County, said the opening of a social services office in Petaluma makes economic sense and helps address the “perspective, whether it’s real or perceived” that the county is Santa Rosa-centric.

“The rent is cheaper in Petaluma at this particular location than it is in Santa Rosa,” he said. “And this is where the services are more convenient for south county residents.”

You can reach Staff Writer Martin Espinoza at 707-521-5213 or martin.espinoza@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @renofish.