What's next for troubled Developmental Center?

Posted on January 25, 2013 by Sonoma Valley Sun

On Jan. 18, state officials announced they would surrender more than $1 million a month in federal funding for the Sonoma Developmental Center, acknowledging the facility had failed to protect patients from abuse and provide quality medical care.

Regulators have threatened to close a major portion of the century-old institution. With more than 500 patients, it is the state’s largest board-and-care facility for the severely disabled.

The sanctions came after an investigation by California Watch revealed the center’s management and police force had failed to adequately investigate significant evidence of patient abuse. Patients at the center are among the state’s most vulnerable, suffering from cerebral palsy, severe autism and other mental, intellectual and physical disabilities.

For more than a year, California Watch reporter Ryan Gabrielson has been investigating the Sonoma facility. The stories have revealed widespread problems with the center’s treatment of patients by staff members and a little-known state police force charged with investigating crimes at the facility. Patients at one unit in Sonoma suffered clear evidence of sexual assault, but their cases were never properly investigated.

On Jan. 30, a public forum will discuss what these revelations mean to Sonoma, the developmental center and its patients and employees, and the people who live in surrounding communities. The panel will be moderated by Phil Bronstein, the executive chairman of the Center for Investigative Reporting the parent organization of California Watch. Gabrielson will also outline his stories and answer questions.

The public is welcome to attend this free event and share their thoughts, insights, experiences and questions with the community: 6 to 8 p.m., Ramekins, 450 W. Spain St., Sonoma, CA 95476.

Registration is required: