Budget cuts and furlough days have long plagued staff at the Sonoma Developmental Center. But dwindling resources have reached a fever pitch with a $1.3 million cut, which may mean losing 50 part-time workers at the state-run residential care facility for developmentally disabled adults.
The state has eliminated a 21-year adult education program, contracted at $1.3 million annually through the Sonoma County Office of Education. This program provides recreational workers who lead residents through activities – including art, music, mobility and painting – in two, two-hour sessions per day. The classes make up the bulk of the center's four hours of daily recreation, mandated by California law in state-run facilities.
"Everybody’s definitely losing," said Jeannie Knighton, Director of Adult Services for the county. Though the program's contract ends June 30, according to Knighton the Developmental Center is trying to find additional funds to keep services through July – and possibly beyond.
"They’re trying to be really optimistic with us, but so far they haven’t found funds – so we have to prepare for the worst," she said.
For the 50 recreation technicians who work in the program, the worst means layoffs.
"The Developmental Center used to be the biggest employer in the county and now it's just crumbling," said Kim Enzensperger, a part-time and substitute recreation tech who has worked at the Developmental Center since the mid-80s. "It's just sad."
In March the Kenwood Press chronicled the Developmental Center's decline, from 3,500 patients in 1965 to just over 558 residents in Dec. of 2011.
Since most state-run facilities have been closed when they reach 500 residents, the Kenwood Press called the closure of the sprawling Developmental Center "inevitable."
The layoffs aren't set in stone. According to a statement released by Nancy Lungren, a media coordinator for the Department of Developmental Services, the facility is "evaluating all expenditures including their Adult Education contract" for elimination this year.
The Developmental Center will continue to fulfill the state mandated four-hours of education and recreation, regardless of monetary pressure, reads the statement.
But if the cuts go through, providing four-hours per day of recreation and activities may be difficult with a full-time staff already stretched thin.
"They do not even have enough staff for regular services, let alone the recreation and walking and all the services that we were providing," said Enzensperger.
For Enzensperger that means that she'll keep doing her work, but without pay.
"I can't just leave the residents: I have relationships with them and they deserve this level of care," she said.