Office for People With Developmental Disabilities

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How do I apply for services?

11/19/13

OPWDD’s new Front Door approach gives individuals who are seeking services for the first time or who are interested in modifying their current plans as many opportunities as possible to direct their own services. From the first time someone enters the Front Door, they, along with their family and circle of support, are provided consistent guidance and referral services identifying the steps necessary to access supports and services through and outside of OPWDD.

The Front Door strives to:

  • Improve the way people learn about OPWDD and available service options 
  • Better connect individual needs to available services 
  • Give people as many opportunities as possible for self-direction 

Front Door services rest on the philosophy of self-determination and the idea that people with developmental disabilities have the right to:

  • Enjoy more meaningful relationships with family, friends, and others in their lives 
  • Experience personal growth 
  • Fully participate in their communities 
  • Live in the home of their choice 

Ultimately, opening the Front Door means people with developmental disabilities will have the opportunity to pursue their dreams and live the lives of THEIR choosing.

If you or a loved one has a developmental disability and lives in New York State, you can request services funded by OPWDD in a variety of ways. You may:

Eligibility for OPWDD Services

OPWDD, through its local Developmental Disabilities Regional Offices (DDROs), determines whether a person has a developmental disability and is eligible for OPWDD‐funded services. The Three‐Step Eligibility Determination Process outlined below describes the kinds of information OPWDD needs to make a determination of developmental disability and confirm eligibility for services. This information can also be found on our website.

Please note that even when someone is determined to have a developmental disability, the person may not be eligible for all OPWDD‐funded services. Some OPWDD‐funded services require additional reviews that are not described in this fact sheet.

The Transmittal Form for Determination of Developmental Disability must accompany all requests sent to the DDRO for eligibility determinations. The Required Documents described on page 2 of the Important Facts Sheet must also be included as part of the eligibility review request. 

Eligibility review requests and records are sent to the Eligibility Coordinator of the DDRO for the county where the applicant lives. A list of the Eligibility Coordinators at each of the five DDROs can be found on our website.

Three-Step Review Process

The process for determining eligibility may involve multiple reviews and is designed to make sure that every person receives a fair and thorough review.

1st Step Review

At the 1st Step, DDRO staff review the eligibility request and the records sent for the file, to make sure the referral is complete. At the completion of the First Step review, the DDRO notifies the person in writing that:

  • Eligibility or Provisional Eligibility has been confirmed (Notice of Determination); or
  • The request is incomplete, and/or requires additional documentation by a certain date; or
  • The request is being forwarded for a Second Step Review

2nd Step Review

If the Eligibility Request is forwarded for a 2nd Step Review, a committee of DDRO clinicians evaluates the request. They also review any additional information that has been provided by the person. The person will be notified in writing if the review committee needs more information, the specific type of information required, and the deadline date for the DDRO to receive the requested information.

When the 2nd Step Review is complete, the DDRO will send the person a written notice of the determination. If the committee determines that the person does not have a developmental disability, the person is ineligible for OPWDD services. The written notice will give the reason for the decision, and will also offer the person options to:

  • Meet with the DDRO staff to discuss the determination and the documentation reviewed; and
  • Request a 3rd Step Review; and
  • Request a Medicaid Fair Hearing (if Medicaid‐funded services had been sought).

The person may choose any or all of these options. If a Fair Hearing is requested, a Third Step Review will happen automatically. Please note that a Notice of Decision offering a Fair Hearing is sent only if the person has requested specific Medicaid‐funded services on the Transmittal Form for Determination of Developmental Disability.

3rd Step Review

An independent Eligibility Review Committee of licensed practitioners not involved in the First or Second Step Reviews does the 3rd Step Reviews. The committee reviews the eligibility request materials and provides recommendations to the DDRO Eligibility Coordinator. The 3rd Step recommendations are considered by the DDRO Director (or designee) and the person is informed of the results, including any changes in the DDRO’s determination. 3rd Step Reviews are completed before the Fair Hearing date.

Required Documents for Eligibility Determination Requests

The DDRO will need this information to determine if a person is eligible for OPWDD services:

  • Psychological reports which include an assessment of intellectual functioning (“IQ test”), and an adaptive behavior assessment. The report should include all summary scores from the assessments (Full Scale, Index, Part and Subtest IQ scores, and standardized domain and composite scores for adaptive assessment results.)
  • For people with IQ scores above 60, an interpretive report of a standardized assessment of adaptive behavior, including summary, composite, scale, and domain scores, is required. For people with IQ scores below 60, an adaptive assessment may be based on a qualitative clinical review using information gathered from interviews with caregivers, records review, and direct observations.
  • A recent general medical report; for conditions other than Intellectual Disability, a medical or specialty report that includes health status and diagnostic findings will be needed to support the diagnosis.
  • A developmental/social history, psychosocial report, or other report that shows that the person became disabled before age 22. This is required for all eligibility requests.
  • In some cases, the DDRO may require additional information to determine eligibility. The DDRO may request additional information or further evaluation, and may either recommend where additional assessments may be done or arrange for them to be done.

Additional Information

For information on eligibility for OPWDD services, please visit the Eligibility page (link to new eligibility page) on the OPWDD Internet.

For information on practitioners and assessment services in your area, please see the Guide to Eligibility Assessment Resources in New York State.

For more information on providers in your area, please visit the following links:

OPWDD Provider Directory
Provider Performance

For more information on local government agencies that may be able to assist you in obtaining OPWDD-funded services, please visit the following links:

Education Department

Department of Health Links:

Office of Children and Families Links:

Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance Links: