Sonoma Center Facing State Sanctions

The California Department of Public Health took a major step this week toward decertifying and revoking the license of the intermediate care facility  at Sonoma Developmental Center.

The Sonoma facility, which serves 290 people with intellectual disabilities, is expected to appeal the state action.

The original survey in July by the Department of Public Health found 57 deficiencies, and four instances of immediate jeopardy to residents. The facility had two three-month periods to correct those problems. According to CDPH officials, time is up.

Assembly member Marc Levine (D-San Rafael) said he has been closely following the progress of Sonoma’s attempts to correct violations, and now fully supports the CDPH action.

“The state must take actions to ensure [the center] meets or exceeds standards,” Levine said. He said the center provides an important service but that its violations are excessive. “I know many families [with relatives] at Sonoma Developmental, and that’s the response that most members of our community have. Anyone who reads the list [of violations] has a personal reaction. We have to protect the health and safety of residents at Sonoma Developmental.”

Leslie Morrison, director of the investigations unit at Disability Rights California, a patient advocacy organization, said the 290 patients with intellectual disabilities represent a little more than half of SDC’s business.  

“Sonoma Developmental has two licenses,” Morrison said, “one as a nursing home, and one as an intermediate care facility.” The ICF unit is the one with serious issues, she said. “The department has been giving them time to fix things,” she said. “But now they’re telling SDC, you’re losing your federal funding, and you’re losing your license.”

If the center appeals, the CDPH action would be delayed, Morrison said.

 “Oh, they’re going to appeal. If they don’t, [the license revocation] goes into effect in January. But with an appeal, it will be stayed,” Morrison said.

Morrison is concerned about what would happen if 290 people suddenly had to leave Sonoma Developmental.

“I suspect there is not capacity in the area to immediately integrate that many residents,” Morrison said. “Perhaps some of them could move to lower levels of care, but still, that’s a lot of people in the community at one time. We’re very concerned about patient safety at Sonoma, and there’s another level of concern about moving that many people, another array of complications.”

According to the Department of Public Health, this kind of action is rare, with similar situations only in 2007 and 2010. An appeal can take as long as two years to decide.

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