BDDC Overview

Essential Services for Quality of Life

As recently as thirty years ago, society’s only alternative when families could not provide for their disabled children and adults was institutionalization in overcrowded, inhumane “state schools” that amounted to human warehouses. Today, we know that people with developmental disabilities can live meaningful, productive lives if they have access to a range of services in their own communities. Families no longer have to turn to institutions if they have adequate supports in and near their home. The essential components of today’s community-based system of services are:

RESIDENTIAL SERVICES – These services range from 24-hour supervised homes, some with clinical staff, to semi-supervised apartments for more independent individuals. While most people with developmental disabilities live with their own families, many will need residential services when the family can no longer manage. In 1998, New York State announced a five year plan to “eliminate the residential waiting list” (NYS CARES), which resulted in thousands of new residential opportunities statewide. We supported state legislation for NYS CARES II, a new 10 year commitment to families for future residential needs that realized passage in the NYS Budget 2003-2004.

EARLY INTERVENTION AND SPECIAL EDUCATION – A free, appropriate education is an entitlement for all children with developmental disabilities from birth through age twenty-one. Early intervention, preschool education and specialized educational strategies throughout the school years can help children to maximize their potential for independent living. Some children do better in self-contained classrooms while others benefit from an “inclusionary” approach. Many of these specialized services are provided by not-for-profit agencies when local school districts do not have the needed educational resources.

ADULT DAY SERVICES AND SUPPORTED EMPLOYMENT – After age twenty-one, most people with developmental disabilities continue to benefit from structured and supervised day activities and supported work and training. These services include day treatment programs, day habilitation, sheltered employment, supported work and vocational training. These services enable people with developmental disabilities to be included in society, lead productive lives and, in increasing numbers, enter the workforce and become taxpayers. Adult day services also allow family members to maintain jobs or care for other independents.

MEDICAL AND CLINICAL SERVICES – Many people with developmental disabilities have medical and physical problems that are related to their mental impairments. They need access to general medical and clinical services that are only available in specialized developmental disability clinics. In addition to general medical, these services include physical therapy, physiatry, speech therapy, specialized dentistry and social work. Most people with developmental disabilities are currently exempted from “managed care” because of their complex medical needs.

SERVICE COORDINATION AND FAMILY SUPPORT SERVICES-Families raising their children with developmental disabilities at home need supports and services in order to meet the extraordinary demands they face every day. These family supports may include in-home and out-of-home respite, crisis intervention, counseling and access to recreation activities. An experienced and knowledgeable service coordinator advocates for the family and helps them to access needed services. These services help maintain family stability and often prevent or delay residential placement.

TRANSPORTATION – Many people with developmental disabilities cannot travel independently or require handicapped accessible transportation in order to access their jobs, day programs, clinical services and medical appointments. A practical means of transportation is an essential component of the system of community services.