For 15 hours a week, an Aldea Children & Family Services employee accompanies 25-year-old Napa resident Lauren Miller while she runs errands, cooks, or goes on a walk. Aldea staff help manage her spending money, give her a package of medications each week and hold onto her extra asthma inhaler.
But for Miller, who is autistic, her days with Aldea are soon coming to an end.
The state nearly halved reimbursement rates last year, making it hard for Aldea to continue its Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Program, said CEO Kerry Ahearn.
Aldea, which operates a number of mental health programs in Napa County, lost more than $10,000 per month for the past five years. The nonprofit tried reorganizing staff and cutting back on services, but now feels that larger, more specialized organizations can do a better job of serving its clients.
“We tried, (we) feel very sad that it is closing,” Ahearn said. “But we want to make sure that the individuals that we serve are getting the highest quality services ... and with all of these cuts, we could not provide that.”
And while Miller is sad to see the program come to an end, she said she’s comforted by the possibility that she could be placed with a new organization, alongside some of the same staff she’s grown to trust.
Miller’s mother, Colleen Dodge of Tustin, worries about what her family will do after Aldea’s program ends.
“It’s pretty devastating,” she said.
Aldea’s program currently serves 32 people — including three married couples — who require Supportive or Independent Living Services. There are 33 similar programs across Napa, Solano and Sonoma counties, and Aldea is committed to ensuring that all 32 clients find a new care provider and helping its employees find work, Ahearn said.
The North Bay Regional Center, which serves people with developmental disabilities, is working to identify agencies that can take Aldea’s clients, Ahearn said. In the coming weeks, people should be getting names of agencies that can work with them.
If clients haven’t found a new provider by the program’s June 30 end date, Ahearn said Aldea will continue to fund their care.
But that’s little consolation for Dodge, who says she picked Aldea because it was a large, local social services agency with a longstanding reputation in the community. Her daughter has bonded with Aldea staff and is growing increasingly anxious about the impending end of the program, Dodge said.
“It makes no sense for her to live with us,” she said. “This whole thing is to prepare her for the time in life where we’re dead or incapacitated.”
‘It was meaningful work’
On a recent, drizzly afternoon, Jacob Neggers, a personal assistant with Aldea, let himself in the green picket fence surrounding her south Napa home, knocked on her door and made his way into her kitchen. Miller sat at a small table and looked on as he boiled egg noodles for beef stroganoff.
Neggers and Miller have known each other for about four years. Neggers said he knew that the program had lost state funding, but was still surprised and disappointed to hear that it was coming to an end.
He questioned why something he saw as so important got cut and said he hopes to stay in the same line of work, if possible.
“It was meaningful work,” Neggers said.
Miller said she was frustrated when Aldea announced it was cutting the program. The staff was supportive and she had come to trust them. And without trust, it’s hard to make progress, Miller said.
“I wasn’t sure where I was going to go after that,” she said.
Since then, she received word from North Bay Regional Center that she could start a new program in July and there’s a chance that she’ll be with some of the same staff. It’s helped put her mind at ease, Miller said.
“I’m a little more confident about it,” she said.