The Regional Centers are contracted by the California Department of Developmental Services to provide the state’s developmentally challenged individuals with service coordination. Every individual with an active case at the Regional Center is assigned to a service unit by zip code and age; that unit is composed of a district manager, who oversees the administration of services to that district (a district is several zip codes), and service coordinators, who work to identify an individual’s needs and the services best suited to meet those needs. The Regional Center endeavors to have each individual assigned to a specific service coordinator as often as possible.
Regional Center service coordinators, in conjunction with the individual, their caregivers, and other associated professionals, friends, and family, draft a one to three year “blueprint” of the individuals needs and requested services called an “Individual Program Plan”(IPP). This plan sets goals for the individual, enumerates his or her needs, and is used to plan which services will be engaged for them. This plan may be altered at the request of the individual or their representative(s) at any time by contacting the service coordinator. Most services that are funded by the Regional Center are provided via vendors and paid for using a Purchase of Service system.
Intake evaluates an individual to see if they are eligible for Regional Center services. This includes testing by a clinical psychologist and an initial report by a social worker. Regional Center psychologists may provide a diagnosis or confirm an existing one along with the determination of eligibility. If found eligible, the intake social worker drafts an Individual Program Plan and provides Purchases of Service for necessary services. The case is then forwarded to the appropriate district manager to be assigned to an ongoing service coordinator.
Early Start services work a bit differently, as they utilize federal funds to provide early intervention, in cooperation with the County Office of Education. Each child, once found eligible, is assigned to a service coordinator, who will help their caregivers develop an Individualized Family Service Plan. This plan is revisited every six months to assess the child’s progress.
Some services that Early Start will fund include, but may not be limited to:
- Speech therapy
- Occupational therapy
- Physical therapy
- Infant development programs
- Behavior modification
Early Start services end when the child turns three. Before that time, the service coordinator, caregivers, service providers, and local school district will conduct a transitional meeting to assist the family for the child’s future. The school district will conduct an assessment to determine if special education services are appropriate. A clinical psychologist from the Regional Center will also conduct an assessment to determine if the individual is eligible for ongoing service coordination.
If the individual is between the ages of three and twenty-two, service coordination revolves around filling some of the gaps between what is provided by the schools, medical insurance and other services that are available. Ongoing service coordinators will conduct annual reviews to assess the individual’s needs and appropriate services and will draft an IPP every one to three years. State law prohibits the Regional Center from duplicating services that are or should be provided by another source, such as tutoring (a matter for Individual Education Plans at school) or therapy and psychiatry (medical insurance). Some services, such as residential placement, day care, and respite, are subject to various state-mandated shares of cost and/or to service standards that are set by the Regional Center.
Each service agreement is tailored to that specific individual’s needs and situation; this means there is a great deal of variety in the services provided to each individual, and one person’s service plan, however similar their diagnosis or capabilities may be, is not representative of all individuals with similar needs.
Services provided at this age include, but may not be limited to:
- Assistance accessing generic resources, such as school, health insurance, etc.
- Advocacy at Individual Education Plan meetings
- Respite and Camp
- Day care
- Residential Placement
- Behavior Modification
- Adaptive Skills Training
- Participation in the Medicaid Waiver via Institutional Deeming
Individuals and their caregivers are encouraged to discuss their needs with their service coordinator, in order to determine which services are appropriate and will best suit those needs. Service coordinators will also assist the individuals and their caregivers with the transition to adulthood at age eighteen, providing information on a variety of related concerns, such as obtaining SSI and conservatorship.
An individual eighteen years old or over is considered a legal adult. However, many individuals participate in special education until age twenty-two. Service coordinators specializing in school-age services will typically remain with the individual until he or she has left school and is stable in their living and post-educational arrangements. They are then transferred to the appropriate district, where they will receive a service coordinator who specializes in adult needs and services.
Adults’ services revolve around community inclusion, self-determination, and independence.
Services deemed appropriate to meet an individual’s needs might include, but may not be limited to: