Office for People With Developmental Disabilities

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Agency Overview


The New York State Office for People With Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) is responsible for coordinating services for nearly 140,000 New Yorkers with developmental disabilities, including intellectual disabilities, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, autism spectrum disorders, Prader-Willi syndrome and other neurological impairments. It provides services directly and through a network of approximately 650 nonprofit service providing agencies, with about 80 percent of services provided by the private nonprofits and 20 percent provided by state-run services.

OPWDD was created in 1978 as the Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities, an independent cabinet-level state agency, largely because of the need for an autonomous entity to implement the Willowbrook consent decree and the resulting closure and downsizing of institutions. In the decades that followed, it has become one of the state’s largest agencies. Individuals supported by this agency and their family members forged a strong working partnership that shaped the way the system grew to support increasing numbers of individuals to live with greater independence in their communities.

In 2010, the agency and its stakeholder partners marked an historic milestone for the people they support when New York State changed the agency’s official name, eliminating the term “mental retardation” from its new title.

Supports and services, which include Medicaid funded long-term care services such as habilitation and clinical services, as well as residential supports and services for 43,000 people, are primarily provided in community settings across the state. Largely because of intensive treatment needs, about 200 people (down from approximately 30,000 in the 1970s) continue to reside in institutional settings such as developmental centers, secure facilities, and residential schools for children jointly operated by OPWDD and the New York State Education Department.

In addition to these Medicaid services, OPWDD also provides New York State-funded family support services, which are designed to assist families in providing care for their loved ones who live full-time in their family home, and employment supports, which include ongoing job coaching, job matching, and vocational training

The Vision Statement

People with developmental disabilities enjoy meaningful relationships with friends, family and others in their lives, experience personal health and growth and live in the home of their choice and fully participate in their communities.

The Mission Statement

We help people with developmental disabilities live richer lives.

Values describe how we as employees of OPWDD interact with the individuals we serve, families, staff, the community and each other:

Compassion The capacity to appreciate what others think and feel.

Dignity The recognition of the worth of each person and the treatment of individual rights and preferences with respect, honor and fairness.

Diversity The celebration, respect and embracing of the differences among us because these differences strengthen and define us.

Excellence The continual emphasis on innovation, increasing knowledge, and delivering the highest quality supports and services.

Honesty The foundation on which trust is built and truth is communicated.

Guiding Principles that frame how OPWDD conducts its business:

Put the person first - People with developmental disabilities are at the heart of everything we do, and this person-first ethic is embodied in the way we express ourselves, and in the way we conduct our business.

Maximize opportunities - OPWDD’s vision of productive and fulfilling lives for people with developmental disabilities is achieved by creating opportunities and supporting people in ways that allow for as many as possible to access the supports and services they want and need.

Promote and reward excellence - Quality and excellence are highly valued aspects of our services.  competency is a baseline. We find ways to encourage quality, and create ways to recognize and incentivize excellence to improve outcomes throughout our system.

Provide equity of access - Access to supports and services is fair and equitable; a range of options is available in local communities to ensure this access, regardless of where in NYS one resides.

Nurture partnerships and collaborations – Meaningful participation by people with developmental disabilities strengthens us. OPWDD staff and stakeholders create mechanisms to foster this participation. The diverse needs of people with developmental disabilities are best met in collaboration with the many local and statewide entities who are partners in planning for and meeting these needs, such as people who have developmental disabilities, families, not for profit providers, communities, local government and social, health and educational systems.

Require accountability and responsibility – There is a shared accountability and responsibility among and by all stakeholders, including individuals with disabilities, their families, and the public and private sector. OPWDD and all its staff and providers are held to a high degree of accountability in how they carry out their responsibilities. We strive to earn and keep the individual trust of people with developmental disabilities and their families, as well as the public trust. Creating a system of supports that honors the individual’s right to be responsible for their own life and accountable for their own decisions is of paramount importance.