August, 18 2018

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Sunny Hills Residential Center Closes Doors in California

Sunny Hills Services, which treats troubled teens, will close its residential treatment center in San Anselmo this year because of a drop in demand for residential treatment, officials announced Monday. The agency will continue its day school and treatment facilities at its Sunny Hills Drive campus in San Anselmo and plans to open a new private school there, called Red Hill Academy, said Joe Costa, the nonprofit organization's chief executive.

He said the residential center closure could result in the layoff or reassignment of about 20 staff members.

"There has been a weakening of demand throughout the state for residential programs in general," Costa said. "Marin has a number of kids in our care, but not more than a dozen of those kids are placed outside their homes. There is a push to provide community-based programs for local kids."

He said the agency, which works with more than 600 children in Marin and Sonoma counties, will place its 37 residential clients elsewhere in June. Their families, all of whom live outside the county, were notified of the pending change last year.

Costa said Sunny Hills will expand some of its day school facilities in Kentfield and San Rafael to accommodate more local families. The area used for residential services will be used by Red Hill Academy, which will be a private boarding and day school for high school-age children, he said.

Red Hill Academy will be able to accommodate up to 40 day students and 40 boarding students, which represents little change in the number of students at the San Anselmo campus, Costa said.

Sunny Hills cut 24 beds from its residential program in July 2006. Costa said the organization laid off five employees after that downsizing, but at least a dozen more accepted new jobs with Sunny Hills.

Sunny Hills receives funding from the state and numerous charitable organizations. Because the San Anselmo residential facility will still be operational for the annual audit April 1, Sunny Hills' funding won't be affected until April 2009.

"This is the latest of a number of similar facilities that have closed," said John Lalonde, director of the Special Education Local Plan Area, a state agency that distributes funds.

Lalonde said the agency received $3.8 million in April 2007 to pay tuition for 85 students in the area. More than $1.6 million of that went to pay for the 37 students in residence at Sunny Hills' San Anselmo campus.

Those funds do not cover room and board, food or other expenses, which Costa said can run the tab to more than $100,000 per student per year. Costa said it costs about $4 million to run the San Anselmo residential facility.

Sunny Hills relies on fundraising and private donations to make up the difference in state-allotted funds and actual cost. The money that was spent on the facility will be used to pay costs of where the children are placed, Costa said

"At its best, (the money) follows the kid," Costa said. "If that kid continues to need special education or treatment at another facility, that's where the money will go."

Costa said Red Hill Academy is scheduled to open in the fall. Any remodeling or construction on the campus will require new permits and other fees from the town of San Anselmo.

"Sunny Hills has always been a great partner for our town," San Anselmo Town Manager Debra Stutsman said. "They have to change their facility to meet the needs of the community they serve. I don't see it having any negative impact on the city."

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