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September 23, 2009 > Center aids developmental disabilities

Center aids developmental disabilities

By Ritu Jha
Photos By Courtesy of Serra Center

With a mission of "Dignity, Respect and Choice," Serra Center has been providing quality life to people with developmental disabilities for the past 34 years.

"We serve adults who have some diagnosis of mental retardation," says Lisa Senadenos, Chief Executive Officer, at the Serra Center, a non-profit aimed at integrating adults with developmental disabilities into the community.

Senadenos, who has been with the organization for 18 years adds, "We used to be in a campus setting at the foothills of the Mission San Jose area. We sold that property and moved down closer to the community in 1996. Many people had lost touch with us, so we want them to know we are very much here and play a vital role. Many people think that the Serra Center is an institution, where people come and live. That was some time ago, but now we are out in the community."

The center's administrative office is located at 4066 Bonde Way in Fremont with residential homes located in Irvington and Centerville, where some clients are served.

The center offers three types of programs - Residential Care Homes licensed by the California Department of Health Services, Independent Living and Supported Living. Residential Care Homes offer 24-hour-care. One staff person is available for every three clients and with Independent Living and Supported Living, the staff member works on a one-on-one basis. The center has 86 employees and serves a total of 94 clients.

"There are six clients in each home," explains Senadenos. "What we are providing is living skills support and training."

She said these houses look like any other house and currently there are four vacancies in the Residential Care Homes. People can contact the administrative office if interested.

Senadenos says the idea behind this assistance is to provide continual care to people with developmental disabilities. "People come here and stay .We help people throughout their lifetime," says Senadenos.

Independent Living and Supported Living serves clients who live in their own apartment and are independent. "We basically focus on their daily living skills," says Senadenos. "We help them with their routine of work such as: managing their checkbooks, going to the grocery stores, keeping the home clean and how to be safe in the community."

Serra Center team evaluates each individual to determine care needs. These people live on their social security money or work money they earn.

"We are pleased to say that we promote productivity. Most of our clients are either working or are enrolled in an educational program. So, everyone is doing something to get back to the community," says Senadenos.

The number of people who need services is growing because many more people are being diagnosed with autism. People are seeking services for their family members because they recognize that those with mental disabilities have needs and desires like any other person.

"They want to live their life to their fullest and that is our mission," says Senadenos.

The center offers services to a very diverse group in the East Bay area and also offers opportunities for travel and socialization locally and abroad.

"We travel with clients because it gives them an opportunity to experience the world and other people get exposed to them also. "It's a learning process," says Senadenos.

"We are serving a 73 year-old, the oldest living person with Down's syndrome on record in the United States," said Senadenos. Years ago people with Down's syndrome did not live beyond 50 years of age. But the improved quality of life makes them live longer."

According to Senadenos, the center has been growing, "But we are always on pins and needles due to limited funding."

She said the Residential Care Homes are Medi-Cal funded and the recent cuts have affected clients. Those under Medi-Cal no longer receive dental or dietary care and other services have been cut as well.

So, the agency has to find ways to supplement the services. "It is our responsibility to ensure that our clients receive these necessary services," says Senadenos.

The center has an advisory board that works on fund raising activities and also looks for companies and people who want to donate their time and resources to help those with developmental disabilities.

For information contact:
Serra Center
4066 Bonde Way, Fremont or (510) 608-3900

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