I/DD Policy in California

In 1969, California became the first state in the United States to grant individuals with Intellectual/Developmental Disabilities (I/DD) the right to the services and supports they need to live more independent and normal lives. The Lanterman Act, now codified in the California Welfare and Institutions Code, declared that “[a]n array of services and supports should be established which is sufficiently complete to meet the needs and choices of each person with developmental disabilities, regardless of age or degree of disability, and at each stage of life, and to support their integration into the mainstream life of the community.” To this day, California is the only state in which the right of individuals with I/DD to be supported in the least restrictive environment is understood as a civil right and an individual entitlement, not merely a right to “take a number and wait in line” until sufficient state resources become available.

To effectuate the goals of the Lanterman Act, California divides responsibility between the Department of Developmental Services (DDS), a state agency, and a network of twenty-one private, nonprofit corporations called “regional centers” that are funded by DDS through annual contracts. Each regional center serves a different area of the state, providing services and supports to consumers in their local communities. DDS is responsible for monitoring the regional centers and ensuring that they faithfully implement the Lanterman Act.

In the early years after the Act’s passage, DDS (and in turn, the regional centers) were largely funded through the state’s General Fund. Since the mid-1980s, however, a sizable portion of funding has been provided by the federal government. The Medicaid program funds a significant portion of the residential, day and family supports and services that regional center consumers receive.

In recent years, a number of developing trends have challenged the state’s capacity to deliver services to individuals with I/DD in an efficient and equitable manner. In an ongoing series of reports, SIDDLAPP is exploring measures that the state might undertake to shore up the regional center system’s effectiveness and long-term stability, thereby improving the welfare of the Lanterman Act’s 350,000 beneficiaries.

Lanterman Transparency Tracker

Lanterman Transparency Tracker

Monitoring compliance with the Lanterman Act’s web disclosure provisions

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Data Resources

Note: “DDS” stands for the California Department of Developmental Services, and “PRA” refers to the California Public Records Act (codified in the California Government Code at Sections 6250 through 6276.48).