A New World For People With Severe Developmental Disabilities

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For decades, severely developmentally disabled people entrusted to public care were housed in large state-run institutions. Now, that era is coming to an end.

In less than six years, most residents of the three remaining institutions are likely to be transferred to group homes and other smaller community settings

The planned transfers have some families worried that their relatives won’t get the supervision they need. Others say community homes offer a sense of freedom they have not had before.

The state plans to move 776 patients out of facilities in Costa Mesa, Porterville and Sonoma. The only patients who won’t be moved, because they can’t be safely placed in the community, are some 200 developmentally disabled felons in a secure area at the Porterville site.

The moves are expected to save roughly $250 million a year because care costs much less in community settings. But cost is not the only reason for shutting down the centers, said John Doyle, chief deputy director of the state’s Department of Developmental Services, which operates them and is coordinating the closures.

“Every decision in government at some level is a monetary decision,” Doyle said. “But this is more of a shift in philosophy.”

In the newer model of care, he said, “people can make their own decisions about their own life,” rather than having their daily schedule dictated by an institution.

California Healthline’s Sacramento correspondent David Gorn discussed the plan earlier this month on KQED’s California Report.

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