Agency Might Appeal Decertification of Sonoma Developmental Center

State health officials yesterday said a decision has been put off till next week on whether to appeal last week’s decertification of the Sonoma Developmental Center.

A decision had been tentatively expected by today on the appeal, but that will happen by next Thursday or Friday, according to Nancy Lungren, assistant director of communications at the Department of Developmental Services.

A California Department of Public Health report released last week determined the Sonoma center was out of compliance with Medi-Cal standards. The CDPH survey found problems in four areas:

  • Governing body and management;
  • Treatment services;
  • Health care services; and
  • Client protection.

Lungren said some of the specific problems within those topic headings could be fixed. The question is, can enough of the CDPH concerns be met to appeal for a new survey to be conducted?

Decertification would take effect 90 days from the July 25 decision. If the decision is appealed and an appeal is granted, CDPH would conduct a new survey, most likely in February, according to Lungren, and then make another determination on whether to re-certify or not.

“We’re already making improvements, and some things were addressed,” Lungren said, pointing to the DDS hiring of California Highway Patrol officers to help set up proper systems for reporting and investigating abuse claims.

Public health officials, she said, “did see there was progress on some issues, but on other issues they found things lacking. We will work on those things quickly and immediately.”

Consumer advocates saw the decertification as corroboration of its calls for patients to be more quickly transitioned to community-based care. The state is moving in that direction, but too slowly, according to Leslie Morrison, director of the investigations unit at Disability Rights California, a not-for-profit patient advocacy group.

“We have not been particularly impressed with how quickly they’re getting people into the community,” Morrison said. “We need them to accelerate the schedule to assess patients, to identify and work to develop those services.”

Morrison said DDS has had more than a year to fix Sonoma Developmental Center, and she wants more done. “They have not corrected the problem,” Morrison said. “They’ve been given a lot of money and a lot of time to make things better, and they haven’t.”

A state advisory task force came out with recommendations in May about what to do with the eight developmental centers in California. State HHS Secretary Diana Dooley reconvened that task force earlier this month with the express purpose of moving patients at the developmental centers into community-based care.

Stakeholder meetings are scheduled throughout the state in August and September to discuss the best ways to create community-based care for patients, Lungren said.

“We want to start developing housing and services for them,” Lungren said, but this population is extremely vulnerable and the transitional care needs to be carefully crafted, she said. “It takes a while to develop the permit process so people can transition out [of the developmental centers],” she said. “We need this to be right for these families.”

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