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State bills threaten to close developmental center

Two state bills are proposing to close the Fairview Developmental Center, a 111-acre facility in Costa Mesa that provides 24-hour care to people with severe developmental disabilities. Though the center once had as many as 2,700 people, today it has around 300.
(KEVIN CHANG, Daily Pilot)

Two state bills target the Fairview Developmental Center for closure so that funding can be diverted to to other community-based disability programs.

The bills’ authors contend that the state-owned center in Costa Mesa and another in Northern California — which both provide 24-hour care to people with severe disabilities — have become too costly to run considering how few patients they serve.

Sen. Jeff Stone (R-Murrieta) said California taxpayers pay about $500,000 a year toward each patient’s care at Fairview and the Sonoma Developmental Center. Closing them and shifting funds to the state’s host of regional centers would cost much less, about $17,000 per person, he said.

“By shutting down these large and outdated state institutions and shifting the money to regional centers, those in need of state services will receive better care and more support,” Stone said a statement.

Stone’s bill, SB 639, aims to close Fairview by December 2018.

The second bill, AB 1405, introduced by Assemblywoman Shannon Grove (R-Bakersfield), has similar provisions.

Both bills were introduced Feb. 27.

As of February, the 111-acre Fairview Developmental Center, off Harbor Boulevard, was caring for 289 people.

Costa Mesa Councilman Gary Monahan, who first learned about the bills Wednesday, said he wants to see Fairview remain open and will petition the council for support.

“The state has a responsibility to help, and they’re basically saying, ‘Go pound sand,’” Monahan said.

The longtime councilman added that he doesn’t approve of SB 639’s proposal to relocate Fairview’s patients, who need constant care, into group residential settings that provide far less supervision.

In a group home, would they be “getting the services they need?” Monahan asked. “Or are they just thrown in front of a TV to whittle away until they die? ... It’s about taking care of people who can’t take care of themselves.”

Monahan was also critical of Stone and Grove for proposing legislation that doesn’t affect their constituents.

“Why are they putting bills forward to affect not only Orange County but Costa Mesa specific?” Monahan said. “It’s not even in their district.”

When reached Wednesday, Costa Mesa’s representatives in Sacramento, Assemblyman Matt Harper (R-Huntington Beach) and Sen. John Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa), said they had just heard about the bills and were unable to provide comment.

“I haven’t decided in terms of the issue itself,” Harper said. “Secondarily, the issues, before they even come to me, would have to go through significant legislative steps, which they may or may not even get through.”

A spokeswoman for the state Department of Developmental Services, which runs Fairview and Sonoma, said the agency hasn’t taken a position yet because the legislation is pending.

A request for comment from Fairview Families and Friends Inc. — a Costa Mesa-based nonprofit that supports the center — was not immediately returned Wednesday afternoon.

Fairview opened in 1959 and peaked in population in 1967 with 2,700 residents.

The idea of closing the 125-year-old Sonoma Developmental Center in Eldridge, about 20 miles northwest of Napa, has already been met with significant protest. The Press Democrat newspaper reported that a rally, staged earlier this month, attracted more than 200 people.


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