Senator McGuire fights for Resources for the Developmentally Disabled – Holds Department Accountable

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Sacramento, CA – Today, Senator Mike McGuire, Chair of the Senate Human Services Committee, continued to put the pressure on the Department of Developmental Services to ensure the Administration's plans for closure of the Sonoma Developmental Center will include agreements for residents regarding resources they need to thrive in the years to come, including housing, specialized medical services and programming.

“According to the Administration’s plan as it’s currently laid out, the Sonoma Developmental Center would be the fastest closure in our state’s history. I understand that we’re trying to show the federal government progress, but arbitrary deadlines that are driven by dollar figures have no place in this process,” Senator McGuire told the crowd of families, residents, staff, local and state officials attending the Joint Hearing of the Senate Human Services Committee and the Health and Human Services Budget Subcommittee. “This is truly a defining moment for our state as major changes are made to the system of care for California’s developmentally disabled residents. We need to advance a plan that puts the needs of developmentally disabled residents first and we need to learn from lessons of past closures, and not make those same mistakes twice.”

Today’s hearing is focusing on the significant budget crisis impacting California’s developmentally disabled community and the impact on residents and families, along with the impending closure of California’s Developmental Centers. When the Developmental Centers close, the demand for community-based and regional center services will increase dramatically, adding pressure to a system that has been operating over the past decade with numerous budget cuts, such as rate freezes and provider payment reductions.

“All of these budget reductions have strained the regional centers, making it difficult to meet the demand for community services. As we continue to close down developmental centers, we need to reinvest in the Regional Center System and a deal on the Managed Care Organization Tax – which the legislature will vote on this Thursday – would be a good start,” Senator McGuire said.

Senator McGuire, who represents the region that includes the Sonoma Developmental Center, which is scheduled for closure in 2018, has spent the past year working with state and local officials, families, residents, staff and providers to ensure a safe and seamless transition for the nearly 400 medically fragile residents who call the SDC home.

The closure plan released last fall by the Department of Developmental Services for the Sonoma Developmental Center lacked important specific details about patient transition and placement services in the community. An important aspect of today’s hearing is to receive first-hand accounts of the lessons learned from previous closures of Developmental Centers in California directly from patient advocates and families.

Currently, California ranks last in the nation in funding per qualified individual with developmental disabilities. In fact, California spends less than half of the national average and also has among the nation’s highest caseload ratios, according to a report released by the Association of Regional Center Agencies. At the same time, between July 2011 and December 2014, 435 residential facilities closed, which amounts to 2,300 beds lost.