top of page

So What's the Deal with OPWDD? Unveiling Support for Developmental Disabilities

Updated: Jul 14, 2023


Welcome to the world of the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD), where navigating the path to support and care may be accompanied by its fair share of challenges. From the mazes of paperwork to the hurdles of bureaucracy, working with OPWDD can be a daunting and lengthy process. However, rest assured that the journey is worth it. Behind the red tape lies a network of dedicated professionals and valuable resources that can make a significant difference in the lives of individuals with developmental disabilities. So, brace yourself for the journey ahead, embrace the persistence required, and discover the rewards that await within the realm of OPWDD.



OPWDD stands for the Office for People With Developmental Disabilities. It is a New York State government agency that provides support and services to individuals with developmental disabilities and their families. Here’s an overview of the services they offer and how to apply:


service bell on desk with telephone
At your service!

1. Service Coordination: OPWDD provides service coordination to assist individuals and their families in accessing necessary supports and services. Service coordinators help develop individualized service plans, coordinate services, and advocate for the person’s needs.


Here are some key aspects of OPWDD's service coordination services:

  • Service coordination, also known as service coordination or case management, is a vital component of the services offered by the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD). It is a process designed to assist individuals with developmental disabilities and their families in accessing and coordinating the necessary supports and services.

  • Service coordinators, who are typically employed by OPWDD or affiliated organizations, work closely with individuals and their families to identify their needs, develop an individualized service plan, and connect them with appropriate services and resources. They act as a central point of contact and guide families through the complexities of the service system.

  • The service coordination process begins with an assessment of the individual's needs, strengths, preferences, and goals. The service coordinator collaborates with the individual and their family to develop an individualized service plan, which outlines the specific services and supports required to meet the individual's needs and goals.

  • Once the service plan is established, the service coordinator assists in arranging and coordinating the approved services. This may involve connecting individuals with medical professionals, therapists, educational programs, vocational training, respite care, community-based services, and other supports as needed.

  • Service coordinators also play a crucial role in monitoring the delivery of services and ensuring that they remain aligned with the individual's evolving needs. They regularly communicate with service providers, advocate for the individual's rights and preferences, and help address any concerns or issues that may arise.

  • Furthermore, service coordinators serve as a valuable source of information and guidance for families, providing them with resources, information about available supports, and assisting them in navigating the various systems and processes involved in special needs care.

Overall, service coordination from OPWDD aims to streamline access to services, promote individual choice and self-determination, and enhance the overall well-being and quality of life for individuals with developmental disabilities and their families.




Nice clean neighborhood with sidewalks
Welcome home!

2. Residential Services: OPWDD offers a range of residential options, including group homes, supported apartments, and family care. These services aim to provide individuals with safe and supportive living environments that cater to their specific needs.

Residential services provided by the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) are designed to support individuals with developmental disabilities who require specialized housing and assistance in their daily lives. Here is the link to get more information about residential services: https://opwdd.ny.gov/types-services/housing


Here are some key aspects of OPWDD's residential services:

  • Housing Options: OPWDD offers a range of housing options tailored to meet the diverse needs of individuals with developmental disabilities. These options include group homes, supervised community residences, supportive apartments, family care homes, and individualized residential alternatives.

  • Supportive Environment: Residential services provide individuals with a supportive environment where they can live, learn, and thrive. Trained staff members are available to assist with daily activities, personal care, medication management, and other necessary supports based on each person's specific needs.

  • Individualized Support Plans: OPWDD emphasizes person-centered planning, which involves creating individualized support plans for each resident. These plans take into account the unique preferences, goals, and needs of individuals, ensuring that the support provided is tailored to promote their independence, well-being, and community integration.

  • Skill Development: Residential services often include programs and activities aimed at developing various skills, such as independent living skills, socialization, vocational skills, and community participation. These programs help individuals enhance their abilities, gain greater independence, and lead fulfilling lives.

  • Staffing and Training: Residential settings are staffed by trained professionals who are experienced in supporting individuals with developmental disabilities. Staff members receive ongoing training to ensure they have the knowledge and skills necessary to provide high-quality care, support, and supervision.

  • Health and Safety: OPWDD places a strong emphasis on the health and safety of individuals in residential settings. Staff members are responsible for ensuring a safe living environment, monitoring health needs, coordinating medical care, and addressing any health-related concerns promptly.

  • Community Integration: Residential services aim to facilitate community integration by providing opportunities for individuals to participate in community activities, access recreational opportunities, engage in vocational training or employment, and develop meaningful relationships with peers and neighbors.

  • Family Involvement: OPWDD encourages family involvement and engagement in the planning and decision-making processes related to residential services. Families are considered valued partners, and their input and feedback are taken into account when designing and implementing support plans.

  • OPWDD's residential services are designed to create a nurturing and supportive living environment that promotes independence, personal growth, and community inclusion for individuals with developmental disabilities. By providing a range of housing options and individualized supports, these services aim to enhance the overall quality of life for individuals and their families.



people at a work meeting talking at a table over a computer
Let's Collaborate

3. Day Services: Day habilitation programs, vocational services, and employment supports are available to help individuals develop skills, engage in meaningful activities, and pursue employment opportunities.

Day services provided by the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) are designed to support individuals with developmental disabilities in leading meaningful and engaging lives during the daytime hours. Here is the link to get more information about day services: https://opwdd.ny.gov/types-services/day-services


Here are some key aspects of OPWDD's day services:

  • Purpose and Scope: Day services aim to promote the personal growth, skill development, and community integration of individuals with developmental disabilities. These services offer structured and supportive activities, programs, and opportunities that are tailored to meet each individual's unique needs and goals.

  • Skill Development and Training: Day services focus on enhancing various skills and abilities of individuals with developmental disabilities. This may include training in communication, socialization, vocational skills, independent living skills, recreational activities, and community engagement. The goal is to help individuals maximize their potential and foster greater independence.

  • Individualized Service Plans: OPWDD emphasizes person-centered planning when developing individualized service plans for day services. These plans take into account the preferences, interests, goals, and abilities of each individual. They guide the selection and delivery of appropriate activities, therapies, and supports to ensure a tailored approach that meets the specific needs and aspirations of each person.

  • Program Variety: OPWDD offers a diverse range of day service programs to accommodate different interests and abilities. These may include vocational training programs, job coaching and placement services, day habilitation programs, art and recreational activities, educational classes, life skills training, and community integration programs. The programs are designed to provide engaging and meaningful experiences that promote personal growth and community participation.

  • Staffing and Support: Day services are staffed by trained professionals who have experience working with individuals with developmental disabilities. These staff members provide support, guidance, and assistance to individuals throughout their day. They may facilitate activities, offer skill-building exercises, provide personal care assistance, and ensure the overall well-being and safety of participants.

  • Community Integration: Day services often emphasize community integration, aiming to facilitate individuals' active involvement and participation in their local communities. This may include volunteer opportunities, social outings, recreational activities, and engagement with community organizations. By promoting community integration, individuals with developmental disabilities can build social connections, develop relationships, and become valued members of their communities.

  • Family Involvement: OPWDD encourages family involvement in the planning and implementation of day services. Family members are considered important partners, and their input and perspectives are valued when designing individualized service plans and making decisions related to activities, supports, and goals.

Day services offered by OPWDD provide individuals with developmental disabilities with structured and purposeful opportunities for skill development, community engagement, and personal growth. These services aim to enhance individuals' abilities, promote independence, and support their overall well-being and quality of life.



a family together at a table smiling and laughing
We are family!

4. Family Support Services: OPWDD provides various supports for families caring for individuals with developmental disabilities. These include respite services, community habilitation, and family reimbursement programs.


Family support services provided by the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) are designed to assist and empower families who have a loved one with a developmental disability. These services recognize the vital role that families play in supporting individuals with developmental disabilities and aim to provide them with the necessary resources, information, and support. Here is the link to get more information about Family Support Services: https://opwdd.ny.gov/community-involvement/family-support-services-councils


Here are some key aspects of OPWDD's family support services:

  • Information and Referral: OPWDD's family support services offer families a valuable source of information and guidance. They can provide information about available services, supports, and resources within the community, as well as help families navigate the service system and connect with appropriate providers.

  • Individualized Support Planning: Family support services involve working closely with families to develop individualized support plans. These plans take into account the unique needs, preferences, and goals of the family and the individual with a developmental disability. They help identify available supports, explore funding options, and outline strategies to enhance the individual's quality of life.

  • Respite Care: Respite care is a crucial component of family support services. It provides temporary relief for family caregivers by offering short-term, planned breaks from the responsibilities of caring for a loved one with a developmental disability. Respite care services can be provided in the home or in community-based settings, allowing caregivers to take time for themselves while ensuring the well-being of their loved one.

  • Parent Training and Education: OPWDD's family support services often include parent training and education programs. These programs offer workshops, seminars, and resources that provide families with knowledge and skills to better support their loved one with a developmental disability. Topics covered may include behavior management strategies, communication techniques, advocacy skills, and accessing community resources.

  • Support Groups and Networking: Family support services facilitate the formation of support groups and networking opportunities for families. These platforms enable families to connect with others facing similar challenges, share experiences, exchange information and advice, and offer emotional support. Support groups can be in-person or online, providing a sense of community and solidarity.

  • Advocacy and Empowerment: OPWDD's family support services aim to empower families to advocate for their loved ones and navigate the systems that affect their lives. They may provide advocacy training, guidance on accessing entitlements and benefits, and assistance in understanding rights and protections for individuals with developmental disabilities.

  • Crisis Intervention and Counseling: In times of crisis or when additional support is needed, family support services may provide crisis intervention and counseling. Trained professionals can offer guidance, emotional support, and help families navigate challenging situations, ensuring their well-being and the well-being of their loved ones.

Family support services from OPWDD recognize the important role of families in the lives of individuals with developmental disabilities. By providing information, resources, respite care, training, and advocacy support, these services help families navigate the complexities of caring for a loved one with a developmental disability, promote their well-being, and enhance the overall quality of life for both the individual and the family as a whole.



someone taking another person's blood pressure with a blood pressure cuff and stethoscope
Take care

5. Clinical Services: Clinical services encompass a range of medical, therapeutic, and behavioral supports, including nursing, physical therapy, occupational therapy, and behavior management.


Clinical services provided by the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) are an essential component of the support and care offered to individuals with developmental disabilities. These services focus on addressing the unique clinical needs and challenges faced by individuals with developmental disabilities. here is the link to get more information about Clinical Services:


Here are some key aspects of OPWDD's clinical services:

  • Assessment and Evaluation: Clinical services involve comprehensive assessments and evaluations to better understand an individual's strengths, needs, and areas of concern. These assessments may cover areas such as cognitive functioning, behavior, communication, physical health, mental health, and adaptive skills. The results of these evaluations inform the development of individualized treatment plans.

  • Behavioral Support: Behavioral support services aim to address challenging behaviors exhibited by individuals with developmental disabilities. These services typically involve functional behavior assessments, development of behavior support plans, implementation of evidence-based interventions, and ongoing monitoring and adjustment as needed. The goal is to enhance adaptive behaviors, reduce problem behaviors, and improve overall quality of life.

  • Mental Health Services: OPWDD recognizes the importance of addressing mental health concerns in individuals with developmental disabilities. Clinical services may include mental health assessments, counseling, therapy, and psychiatric services. These services help individuals manage mental health challenges, address emotional well-being, and enhance their overall mental health and resilience.

  • Health Care Coordination: Clinical services also encompass health care coordination to ensure individuals with developmental disabilities receive appropriate medical care. This may involve coordinating medical appointments, ensuring access to specialists, providing health education, assisting with medication management, and advocating for comprehensive health care services.

  • Assistive Technology: Clinical services may involve the use of assistive technology to enhance communication, mobility, and independence for individuals with developmental disabilities. This can include devices such as augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) systems, adaptive equipment, sensory aids, and mobility aids.

  • Therapeutic Services: OPWDD's clinical services may include various therapeutic interventions to address specific needs. These interventions may include occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech and language therapy, and other evidence-based therapeutic approaches. Therapists work closely with individuals to improve motor skills, communication abilities, sensory processing, and functional independence.

  • Medication Management: Clinical services may involve medication management for individuals who require pharmacological interventions. This includes prescribing appropriate medications, monitoring medication effectiveness and side effects, and ensuring proper adherence to medication regimens. Medication management is typically provided in collaboration with physicians and other medical professionals.

  • Training and Consultation: Clinical services may also extend to training and consultation for caregivers, staff, and service providers. This may involve training in behavioral support strategies, crisis intervention, medication administration, and other relevant topics. Consultation services provide ongoing guidance and support to ensure the effective implementation of clinical interventions.



woman with prosthetic legs on couch looking at phone on tripod pointed at her
Lead the way!

6. Self Direction: Self-Direction is a program offered by the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) that provides individuals with greater control and flexibility over the services and supports they receive. It empowers individuals to make decisions about their own lives, enabling them to customize and manage their services based on their unique needs and preferences. Here is the link to get more information on Self Direction: https://opwdd.ny.gov/types-services/self-direction


Here are some key aspects of Self-Direction:

  • Person-Centered Approach: Self-Direction puts the individual at the center of decision-making. It recognizes that individuals with developmental disabilities are the experts on their own lives and encourages active participation in determining their goals, supports, and outcomes.

  • Individualized Budget: With Self-Direction, individuals are allocated a budget based on their assessed needs and available funding. They have the authority to manage this budget, deciding how and where to allocate funds to meet their goals and desired outcomes.

  • Service Planning and Coordination: Self-Direction involves developing a personalized service plan that outlines the individual's goals, desired outcomes, and the specific services and supports they require. Individuals have the flexibility to choose their service providers and coordinate the delivery of services based on their preferences.

  • Flexibility and Creativity: Self-Direction allows for creative solutions and flexibility in service delivery. Individuals can explore innovative approaches, consider non-traditional services, and develop customized strategies to meet their needs and achieve their goals.

  • Support Broker: A support broker is an individual or agency that assists in navigating the Self-Direction process. They provide guidance, information, and help individuals manage their budgets, develop service plans, and connect with service providers.

  • Range of Services: Self-Direction covers a wide range of services and supports, including but not limited to personal care assistance, respite care, behavioral supports, therapies, community integration, skill development, transportation, and more. The specific services are determined based on the individual's assessed needs and goals.

  • Enhanced Decision-Making and Independence: Self-Direction aims to enhance the decision-making abilities and independence of individuals with developmental disabilities. By actively participating in the planning and management of their services, individuals have greater control over their lives and can shape their support systems to align with their unique aspirations and preferences.

Self-Direction offers a person-centered and flexible approach to services and supports, empowering individuals with developmental disabilities to have more control over their lives and the services they receive. It promotes choice, independence, and the ability to live a self-directed and fulfilling life within the community.



Overall, OPWDD's clinical services are designed to address the unique clinical needs of individuals with developmental disabilities, promoting their overall well-being, independence, and quality of life. By providing assessments, behavioral support, mental health services, health care coordination, therapeutic interventions, assistive technology, medication management, and training, these services contribute to a comprehensive and holistic approach to care and support for individuals with developmental disabilities.



To apply for OPWDD services, follow these general steps:


1. Contact OPWDD: Reach out to the OPWDD regional office that serves your area. They will provide guidance and information on the application process. Here is the link your regional offices: https://opwdd.ny.gov/contact-us and here is the link to attend your front door information session: https://opwdd.ny.gov/get-started/information-sessions

2. Schedule an Intake Meeting: Attend an intake meeting with an OPWDD representative. They will assess your eligibility for services and gather relevant information about the individual’s needs and circumstances.

3. Complete Necessary Documentation: Fill out the required forms and provide supporting documentation as requested by OPWDD. This may include medical records, assessments, and other relevant information. here is the link with more information about eligibility and documentation: https://opwdd.ny.gov/eligibility

4. Individualized Service Plan (ISP): Work with a service coordinator to develop an individualized service plan that outlines the supports and services needed. The plan will be based on the person’s strengths, preferences, and goals.

5. Plan Implementation: Once the ISP is approved, OPWDD will work with you to implement the identified services and supports.


Please note that the application process and available services may vary depending on your location. It’s advisable to contact your local OPWDD office directly for detailed information and specific instructions on how to apply in your area.



In summary, the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) offers a range of services to support individuals with developmental disabilities and their families. From residential services and day programs to family support services and clinical interventions, OPWDD strives to enhance the lives of individuals with developmental disabilities by promoting their independence, well-being, and community integration. Whether through providing housing options, skill development, respite care, clinical assessments, behavioral support, or therapeutic services, OPWDD recognizes the unique needs and challenges of individuals with developmental disabilities and works to ensure they receive the necessary support and care to thrive.



Disclaimer: The information provided on this platform is for general informational purposes only. While I strive to provide accurate and up-to-date information, I make no representations or warranties of any kind, express or implied, about the completeness, accuracy, reliability, suitability, or availability of the information contained herein. Any reliance you place on such information is strictly at your own risk. It is important to note that laws, regulations, and circumstances may have changed since that time. Therefore, it is strongly advised that you independently verify and validate any information I provide before making decisions or taking actions based upon it. I am not responsible for any errors or omissions, nor for any loss, injury, or damage arising from the use of the information provided. It is always recommended to consult with relevant professionals or experts in specific fields for tailored advice and guidance. Please be aware that interactions and communications on this platform do not establish a professional-client relationship. The responsibility for evaluating and validating the information provided rests solely with the individual readers. By using this platform, you agree to hold me harmless from any liability or claim in connection with the use of the information provided. Always seek professional advice and consult with appropriate authorities or experts regarding specific legal, financial, medical, or any other professional matters. Thank you for understanding."


107 views0 comments
bottom of page