Regional centers in California provide a lifetime of services, treatment and habilitation services to people with developmental disabilities. ¬†To be found eligible for these services a person must be found to have a developmental disability, under the Lanterman Act, which requires the condition to: originate before the individual’s 18th birthday, continue or be expected to continue indefinitely, and be a substantial disability.

What conditions qualify as a developmental disability?

A developmental disability must be attributable to mental retardation, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, autism, or another disabling condition considered to be closely related to mental retardation or to require similar treatment.

What qualifies as a substantial disability?

To qualify for Regional Center services a person must exhibit a significant functional limitation in at least three of the following major life activities: learning, receptive/expressive language, self-care, self-direction, mobility, capacity for independent living, and economic self-sufficiency.

When can you apply for services?

Ongoing eligibility applies to qualified children of three years and older, however, early start eligibility is available. If a child, 0 to 23 months has a documented delay of at least 33% in cognition, communication, social or emotional development, adaptive development, either fine or gross motor development, vision, or hearing, or an established risk of developmental delays they qualify for early intervention services. Children 24 to 36 months qualify with a documented delay of at least 50% in one area, or documented delays in two or more areas of 33% or greater.

How long will it take to determine if my child is eligible?

Early start evaluations, assessments for eligibility, and Individualized Family Service Plans, must be completed within 45 days of the request for service or referral to the Regional Center.

Regular intake (for children three and older) must be completed in 15 business days of the request for services but the Regional Center has 120 days to determine eligibility. If however, a delay in the intake process would result in unnecessary risk to the child’s health and safety, then eligibility must be determined within 60 days.

What kind of services are available?

Regional Centers provide adult day programs, behavior intervention services, crisis intervention services, day care, medical equipment, independent and supported living programs, licensed residential options, respite, supported employment, and transportation services, among other services. The Regional Center must provide the supports and services, an eligible individual needs to to live the most independent and productive life possible.

What if my child is denied eligibility?

If you believe your child has a qualifying developmental disability but the Regional Center found them ineligible you have the right to appeal their decision. For children 3 years and older the fair hearing process includes a voluntary informal meeting, mediation, and a fair hearing. For children from birth to age three there are three separate processes in place for addressing disagreements: mediation conferences, due process hearings, and the early start complaints. The Lanterman Act requires that you are provided a hearing before a neutral third party. This requirement is met by your appeal being heard by an administrative law judge from the Office of Administrative Hearings. Once you file a hearing request you still have the opportunity to mediate the dispute. In the case that mediation cannot resolve the dispute, you have the right to proceed to a hearing where you will have the opportunity to present all relevant facts. Throughout this process you have the right to be represented by an attorney.