State Gives up Millions of Federal Dollars over Disability Center Abuse

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The state is losing millions of dollars in federal funds that help pay for board and care of developmentally disabled patients because of problems at one of its troubled facilities.

The state Department of Developmental Services (DDS), which oversees the Sonoma Developmental Center, announced last week that it has informed the federal Centers for Medicaid and Medicare that ongoing deficiencies at four of the facility’s 10 residential units aren’t going to be fixed in time to maintain required certification.

The formal notification followed a determination last month by the Department of Public Health (DPH), which regulates DDS, that a July decision to forgo the federal funding wasn’t going to be reversed. DPH found 57 deficiencies in July and more in a follow-up December review, including cases that presented an immediate threat to the safety and health of patients.

Overall, the Department of Public Health found six violations of Federal Conditions of Participation.

The loss of certification will cost California $1.37 million a month, but the units will stay open and receive the money from the state General Fund. The Santa Rosa Press Democrat said that 112 patients would be affected.

Investigations by DPH and news stories about the Sonoma Center uncovered: failures by an internal police force to protect patients from abuse; a staff member exposing himself; and a patient being allowed to eat food not medically recommended. Reporting by California Watch detailed a dozen sexual assaults that went uninvestigated at the facility. The department regulates the state’s five developmental centers, which house 1,600 patients. About a third of the patients live at Sonoma.

Both the executive director and the clinical director at Sonoma have been removed, and several staff members have being disciplined or fired.

–Ken Broder


To Learn More:

State Disability Center Forfeits Funding over Abuse (by Ryan Gabrielson, California Watch)

Troubled Sonoma Developmental Center Won’t Seek Federal Funds (by Derek Moore, Santa Rosa Press Democrat)

Department of Developmental Services Withdraws Four Living Units at Sonoma Developmental Center from Federal Certification (Department of Developmental Services) (pdf)

State Decertifies Its Largest Center for Developmentally Disabled (by Ken Broder, AllGov California)

Leave a comment