Keep up to date on changes and trends in the service needs and system for people with developmental disabilities. For example:
- The Autism rate in California is rising. Autism requires special services and supports, like smaller settings or settings with little stimulus. The state may need to dedicate more resources to services to address these increased needs. You may need to advocate to encourage the Legislature to respond.
- People with some disabilities or combinations of disabilities find it hard to get services. For example, people with developmental and psychiatric disabilities or people with chronic medical problems who need special technology. Advocates can improve systems and services here.
- Many consumers want to live, work, and play in integrated settings. Many people want to work at regular jobs with supports instead of working in sheltered workshops. Others want to go to the local “Y” in the summer instead of a camp for people with disabilities. Advocates can help steer service delivery systems toward more integrated service models and outcomes.
- New and better ways to serve people are being developed around the country the world. If you learn about these, you can help make sure services in your area keep up with progress being made in other places.
The regional center works to develop new types of services and make their services available to more people.Section 4648(e). The regional center should collect information about the services and supports that are missing in their area. Ask your regional center if it is doing this. And ask for a copy of their list of needed services that are not available.
Your service coordinator should help you think about the supports you need, even if they are not available yet. The regional center’s development unit can add this information to their list of missing services. This will help them see the “big picture,” especially if many people with developmental disabilities are asking to develop similar new services. It will help the regional center decide the best way to focus their resources and develop new services.
The Department of Developmental Services (DDS) negotiates five-year contracts with each regional center. DDS includes in each contract annual performance goals for each regional center. These goals must be developed through a public process that asks for information from the regional center’s community through focus groups and surveys.Section 4629(c)(1)(B). These public hearings, focus groups, and surveys are a chance for people with developmental disabilities and their families to talk about new policies and programs needed in each regional center’s area.
Beginning on May 1 of every year, regional centers must hold at least one meeting on how the regional center did with last year’s goals. These meetings must be publicized in advance to get community input.Section 4629(f). These meetings are a good chance to find out how regional centers are doing and how they can improve in areas where they have come up short.
When it develops its annual “Community Placement Plan,” the regional center uses its experience with people at risk of being placed in developmental centers to find services and supports that will help prevent this. The regional center receives funding specifically to develop these services and supports.Section 4418.25(c). The process of developing this plan is another chance to provide input and advocating for community-based services. These services would help people avoid going into facilities.
Every five years, the State Council on Developmental Disabilities (SCDD) asks all regional centers about the services and supports they are missing. SCDD asks what new, expanded, or changed services and supports they need. They must highlight new and different ways to deliver services to meet the needs of regional center clients. The SCDD can also use information from other sources, including public hearings. You can join these hearings and point the regional center toward the goals you think it should focus on.Section 4677(b).
The law says these goals must focus on helping people with developmental disabilities to achieve life quality outcomes. They must show good progress, better than how things are for people right now. They must involve the development of services needed to meet identified needs, including cultural- and language-appropriate services. They must reduce differences in how services are bought and make this equal among regional center consumers. They must make progress in the employment of people with developmental disabilities. These goals must be specific and measurable.Section 4629.
You can find out how your regional center is doing in meeting these goals. Regional centers must post their annual performance contract objectives and their year-end performance on their websites.Section 4629.5(b)(9).
Because the law requires regional centers to focus on these goals, you may also want to focus on these in your advocacy. This is especially important if the regional center is failing to meet its required goals.