More Than Half of Californians With Developmental Disabilities Are Excluded From State Services

More than half of Californians with developmental disabilities are excluded from state programs that provide extra services, such as mobility training, day care and vehicle modifications, a new report has found.

There were about 703,800 residents with a developmental disability in 2015, but about 423,800 didn’t qualify for the state’s developmental disability programs, according to the November report, from the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research.

In order to qualify for the special programs in California, people with developmental disabilities must have experienced disability before age 18, and have a qualifying condition: cerebral palsy, epilepsy, autism, mental retardation or “conditions requiring services similar to those required for persons with mental retardation,” according to the report.

People with other developmental disabilities and those who are “higher functioning” don’t qualify for the services, despite the fact that, in many cases, they could benefit from them, the researchers found.

The services allow people with disabilities to “live in the least restrictive environment possible and to maintain independence within the community,” the researchers wrote. The state has programs to help developmentally disabled people with transportation, dental care, social activities and employment.

The Affordable Care Act helped expand a few services, such as medical care and behavioral treatment, to people with developmental disabilities, but many other “safety-net” programs remain out of reach for those with disabilities in California.

California is ahead of most other states in caring for people with developmental disabilities, the researchers said. A 1969 state law, the Lanterman Developmental Disabilities Services Act, requires the state to care for residents with developmental disabilities.

“California is the only state in the nation to have an entitlement to care for the developmentally disabled,” the report states. “This legislation was complemented by passage of the ACA, but many California residents with developmental disabilities still do not have access to social services.”

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