Questions and Answers about Regional Centers

Regional Centers provide support and services for individuals with developmental disabilities throughout California.

According to the California Department of Developmental Services, regional centers are “nonprofit private corporations that contract with the Department of Developmental Services to provide or coordinate services and supports for individuals with developmental disabilities. They have offices throughout California to provide a local resource to help find and access the many services available to individuals and their families.”

What does the Regional Center provide?

Regional Centers provide the supports and services that a person with developmental disabilities needs to live, work, learn and recreate in her or his community, as closely as is possible to how a person without disabilities does these things.

Does the Regional Center provide services for school-age children?

Yes. Many families are led to believe that there is a “break” in Regional Center services or funding between ages 3 and 22, while the person with disabilities is in school and has an IEP. In fact, the Regional Centers provide important supports at every stage of life!

Can adults be made eligible for Regional Center services?

Yes. The applicant must be able to show that her or his qualifying condition originated prior to 18 years old, and that she or he meets the other eligibility criteria, including qualifying disability and substantial handicap in at least three of the seven specified areas of daily life activities.

Does the Regional Center pay for ABA therapy for clients with autism?

Sometimes! New laws require that health insurance – even Medi-Cal – must cover autism treatment therapies like Applied Behavior Analysis (“ABA”). But there are some exceptions to these laws. Regional Centers should help to fix problems with a client’s health insurance coverage, and should provide funding for therapy that a client needs, if the usual sources of funding are unavailable.

What is an IPP?

An Important Piece of Paper: Actually, IPP means Individualized Program Plan, and every Regional Center client has one (some RC’s call it “IFSP,” an Individual and Family Services Plan). It includes important information about the individual’s living situation, work/school status, health and finances, and incorporates the person’s preferences, goals and needs, as well as the supports and funding that the Regional Center will provide.   IPPs are reviewed annually, usually during the individual’s birth month. The Service Coordinator should meet personally with the family and that client for the IPP review.

Can the Regional Center change the IPP?

Yes, but… The Regional Center must give the client 30 days advance notice in writing of changes to the IPP. The client has 30 days to appeal the proposed change, and as long as the appeal is filed within 10 days, the disputed services will continue unchanged until the dispute is resolved. If a client requests a service or support and the RC denies the request, the client has 30 days to appeal.

What happens when an appeal is filed?

The appeal will be heard in an administrative “fair hearing” by an administrative law judge. The parties will have the opportunity for mediation and can resolve the dispute in a settlement agreement.

“Fair Hearing” is neither, if the Regional Center client does not have a fair chance to be heard. A qualified, experienced attorney can advise you about how to present your case, and represent you in the hearing if it comes to that.

What laws and agencies govern the Regional Center?

The Lanterman Act, codified in Divisions 4.1, 4.5 and 4.7 of the Welfare and Institutions Code, establishes 21 Regional Centers across the state of California to provide supports and services to people with developmental disabilities.

  • Regional Centers are quasi-governmental, private non-profit entities. Each Regional Center serves a specific geographic area and all of the eligible people who live within that area.   Each Regional Center has its own operational policies, but must operate within the law and must do what the Lanterman Act says.
  • A Regional Center can, at its discretion, provide more than what the Lanterman Act provides, but not less.
  • California’s Department of Developmental Services (DDS) oversees the Regional Centers and administers the government funding that the Regional Centers use to do their work.
  • The State Council on Developmental Disabilities (SCDD, formerly “Area Boards”) advises DDS and provides public education and outreach. There are 13 SCDD Regional Offices. As a stakeholder, you can attend SCDD meetings, and join the council.
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