OPWDD stands for the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities. It is the New York State office that provides funding for services for people with developmental disabilities.
With respect to OPWDD’s interpretation: Developmental disabilities include intellectual disability, Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, autism spectrum disorders, epilepsy, familial dysautonmia, and other neurologically based impairments. In addition: the disability must have occurred prior to the person’s 22nd birthday; the disability must cause significant deficits in the person's adaptive functioning; the disability must be expected to continue indefinitely.
In order to be eligible for OPWDD services, the person must have a diagnosed developmental disability and must provide documentation establishing the disability diagnosis.
You must have all the required documentation (see below) for eligibility determination. Once you have the paperwork together, you will need to contact the Front Door and attend a Front Door information session.
The Front Door is OPWDD’s person-centered process for establishing access to services for people who are new to OPWDD, or those seeking to modify existing services.
During this process, eligibility for services will be determined. An assessment of the person's strengths and needs will be done in order to identify and authorize appropriate supports. Part of this process also includes participation in an education session, which is required prior to implementation of services. The DDRO Front Door team is flexible in providing these training sessions for families, people with I/DD, and professionals. For more information on the Front Door, you can check the OPWDD website.
The contact number for all regions in New York State can be found on the OPWDD website.
OPWDD requires everyone applying for services to provide:
- A recent comprehensive psychological evaluation including an IQ score and an adaptive behavior assessment.
- A psychosocial evaluation documenting the person's developmental history.
- Medical documentation of the person's diagnosis may be required.
- An annual physical.
If the person is over the age of 22, they will need to provide proof that the disability manifested itself prior to the age of 22. This is often referred to as “age of onset documentation.”
The Developmental Disabilities Regional Office (DDRO) may request additional documentation regarding the person’s disability. For more detailed information regarding evaluations, see the Metro DDRO guidelines (pdf).
Age of onset documentation can be obtained by requesting old school records, evaluations or other clinical documentation from doctors or professionals involved with the person. For people who attended NYC schools, you may submit a documentation request to the NYC Department of Education using this sample document request letter.
Be sure to document all efforts to obtain this documentation. If you have tried to obtain information and have been unsuccessful, letters from people who have known the person since childhood can be used as supporting documentation.
The YAI Network can provide the required comprehensive psychological and psychosocial evaluations through our Center for Specialty Therapy locations, in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Queens. Availability may vary depending on the location. Call LINK at 212.273.6182 to make a referral or find out more information about the evaluations. We may also be able to complete an annual physical through Premier HealthCare, depending on the person's insurance.
Call LINK at 212.273.6182 to discuss the evaluation results and an Information Specialist can help you to determine if a person is likely to be eligible and provide information and referrals accordingly. The Information Specialist will also discuss if additional evaluations are required to access services. Once you have the required documents, you will need to contact the Front Door.
It depends on a number of factors, including if the person already has evaluations and or pre-22 documentation, or if they need to get them; whether the person is found eligible for OPWDD services, the response time to requests for additional information, and what services are being requested and resources are available.
For more detailed information on eligibility criteria for OPWDD services, visit opwdd.ny.gov. You can also call LINK and an Information Specialist will answer your questions and discuss your specific situation.
Contact LINK to speak to an Information Specialist who will be happy to assist you.
Email: link [at] yai.org