Press Release

Supporting Individuals with Developmental Disabilities in Achieving Self-Reliance

California’s Self Determination Program (SDP) emphasizes person-centered planning for individuals with developmental disabilities through the 5 tenets of freedom, authority, support, responsibility, and confirmation.

SACRAMENTO - Senator Caroline Menjivar (D- San Fernando Valley) introduced Senate Bill 1281 to establish a more simplified and equitable administrative process for enrolling participants and assisting them in remaining in the Self Determination Program (SDP), mitigating identified disparities.

With an emphasis on self-customized planning of services, the SDP provides Regional Center clients the ability to control supports according to their needs to reach self-determination. But, complexities in the system have been found to disadvantage people of color who would benefit immensely from the program. Along with concerns about racial disparities within the administrative system, inequities in how the SDP is being implemented across regional centers have also been reported.

“When Californians with developmental disabilities can tailor their supportive services to meet their specific needs, programs are far more effective than those prescribed by default. The Self Determination Program was intended to facilitate the tools needed for participants to identify and reach their goals for independence, employment, and health. SB 1281 will build upon the program's success by eliminating racial inequities in enrolling and receiving services so all Californians who qualify for the SDP can realize its benefits and achieve their self-determined goals.” – Senator Caroline Menjivar

The SDP begins with a person-centered plan and an agreed upon individual budget, which becomes a spending plan to purchase services from direct service providers. Participants are not restricted to providers vendored with regional centers. They can identify individuals and organizations in their communities who understand their needs and culture to help them meet their goals.

SB 1281 would further advance this model by:

  • Requiring the Department of Developmental Services (DDS) to establish statewide standardized and streamlined processes and procedures including enrollment, individualized budgets, Financial Management Services (FMS), access to self-directed transition services, and a client’s spending plan;
  • Providing a more person-centered experience by respecting a participants' provider choice;
  • Ensuring that individuals entering the SDP have access to transition support from trusted partners;
  • Reinforcing accessibility to Financial Management Services and clarifying employer burden and what costs FMS can pass on to participants. It also requires that the FMS provide timely payments to providers;
  • Requiring DDS to include the assessment and adequacy of FMS providers at each Regional Center in their annual report to the legislature. 

 Community members and advocacy groups support SB 1281.

“The Self-Determination Program allows me to live my life with dignity. I choose how I want to live and who supports me to do that. We need this program to succeed, and this legislation will help make that happen.” - Tim Jin, a person living with cerebral palsy and a participant in the Self-Determination Program.

“This legislation is critical to ensure that people with developmental disabilities have control over their lives and meaningful outcomes that matter to them,” said Judy Mark, President of Disability Voices United. “The Self-Determination Program brings great hope for people with developmental disabilities, particularly from chronically underserved communities of color. The problem is that the program has been plagued by barriers and bureaucracy, preventing participation from the exact communities it is supposed to help.”

"The Self-determination program is a beacon of empowerment and inclusion. Self-determination isn't just about choice; it's about leveling the playing field and ensuring every individual has the opportunity to shape their own destiny. Through this program and legislation, ICC is dedicated to fostering a landscape where every voice is heard, every dream is supported, and every pathway to success is accessible. We believe that true equity begins with self-determination." -Elizabeth Barrios Gomez, Co-Founder and Director of the Integrated Community Collaborative.

When equitably administered, the SDP participants have reported positive growth in areas such as self-awareness, responsibility, mental health, community integration, independence, employment, and quality of life. Given the benefits of the SDP program, distinct reforms to streamline the process will allow it to reach the five principles on which it was founded. California should build upon the progress made and ensure that every eligible person can benefit fully, eliminating distinct barriers that persist for the BIPOC community.

SB 1281 will be heard in the relevant committee(s) this spring.