The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) on Wednesday announced an agreement with the Department of Developmental Services (DDS) regarding the future of the troubled Sonoma Developmental Center (SDC). The state-run facility in the tiny community of Eldridge, north of the city of Sonoma, houses clients with severe developmental disabilities. There have been repeated reports of patient abuse at the center and lack of investigations by the internal police. Last week, DDS announced the appointment of Karen Faria as the new executive director at Sonoma.
Public Health and DDS have entered into a Program Improvement Plan (PIP) with a framework of improvements the Sonoma facility must meet to continue Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) certification and federal financial participation, according to a news release.
The PIP outlines several actions the Sonoma Developmental Center must achieve including: entering into a contract with an independent entity that will perform a root cause analysis, develop action plans to correct identified deficiencies and report monthly progress to the Department of Public Health.
“CDPH will closely monitor each residential unit to determine that clients are protected from harm and that the delivery of healthcare to this vulnerable population complies with both federal and state requirements,” stated Dr. Ron Chapman, Public Health's director and state health officer, according to the release.
In the face of the abuse reports, the head of the parents' advocacy group for the center, Parents Hospital Association, has previously told Patch many families believe their loved ones are being treated better at the Sonoma facility than they might be in private homes in the community. Kathleen Miller described the Sonoma facility as the "Cadillac of care."
Public Health is responsible for inspecting health facilities in California as well as administering the federal Medicaid certification program. An inspection in December at the Sonoma Developmental Center’s Intermediate Care Facility (ICF) revealed that systemic deficiencies first identified last summer were not fully corrected, the news release stated. This required Public Health to initiate steps to decertify the entire ICF. The ICF serves approximately 290 intellectually disabled residents.
In January, DDS voluntarily terminated the Medicaid certification of four of the 10 residential units at the ICF. This action permitted the continued certification of the remaining six units while needed corrections are made based on a federally approved Plan of Improvement, according to the news release Wednesday.