PRAGNYA was honored to welcome representatives from our three Bay Area Regional Centers -- Golden Gate (GGRC), Regional Center of the East Bay (RCEB), and San Andreas (SARC) – who presented a panel for families and self-advocates on August 13 on Regional Center (RC) services, how to navigate the complex RC system and dispelling common myths and misinformation that can sometimes dissuade families from applying for services. Regional Centers are community-based, private nonprofit organizations funded by the State of California to serve individuals with developmental disabilities as required by the Lanterman Developmental Disabilities Act. Any person, regardless of age, cultural background or income, believed to have a developmental disability, is encouraged to apply for Regional Center services
The presentation began with welcoming remarks from Lisa Kleinbub, Executive Director of Regional Center of the East Bay, Mike Keeley, Director of Consumer Services from San Andreas, and a message from Eric Zigman, Executive Director of Golden Gate, presented on his behalf by Arianna Cruz-Sellu, GGRC Cultural Diversity Specialist. Each of them shared information on their own Regional Centers, and encouraged families to reach out to them personally for support.
San Andreas Diversity and Inclusion Manager Minerva Valdez started off the presentation with a general overview of Regional Center services. The topics covered included services for school-age children and youth (3-22), transition services for teens and young adults (14-22) and adults, ages 22+. For those in the school-age population, the school district services typically provided under the student’s IEP (Individual Education Plan, which is Federally mandated under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), can include speech therapy, occupational therapy, adaptive physical education, applied behavioral analysis, transportation, and nursing. The services available from the Regional Center can include service coordination helps to fill some of the gaps between what is provided by the schools, medical insurance, and other available services, including but not limited to:
Assistance accessing generic resources
Advocacy at Individual Education Plan meetings
Respite and Camp
Day care (partial share of cost)
Medicaid Waiver via Institutional Deeming (if the family does not meet the criteria for Medi-Cal eligibility, the child/youth can be made eligible because they have a disability and are a client of the Regional Center).
Minerva then covered the transition period. Beginning at age 14 and updated annually, the student’s IEP team and RC Service Coordinator begin the essential future planning process of transitioning from school to work and from childhood to adulthood. The definition of transition services mentions specific domains of adulthood to be addressed during transition planning: postsecondary education; vocational education; integrated employment (including supported employment); continuing and adult education; adult services, independent living, and community participation. These areas are explored by the IEP team to determine what types of transition-related support and services a student with a disability needs to prepare for life after high school.
To conclude her portion of the presentation, Minerva talked about Regional Center services available to adults at age 22 (or earlier if they have received a high school diploma). Adults’ services revolve around community inclusion, self-determination, and independence, and might include, but are not limited to:
Assistance accessing community resources or entitlements such as SSI (Supplemental Security Income from the Federal government)
Independent Living Skills training
Out of Home Living Options
The next panelist was Jairo Guiza, Diversity & Equity Specialist for Regional Center of the East Bay. Jairo shared information on how to navigate the complex Regional Center system. Jairo covered how to apply for services, working with your service coordinator and what you can expect from them, the importance of keeping good records, and your right to appeal. As a Diversity & Equity Specialist, Jairo encouraged families to talk to their service coordinator about your language, culture, and values. Regional centers must keep your and your family’s lifestyle and culture in mind when they meet with you to discuss your IPP. Regional centers must use the information you give them about your culture to help your team create an IPP that considers your culture, language, and values. The focus of the IPP must be on your wishes, needs, and dreams, rather than on a list of services and supports that are available.
The last part of the panel discussion was led by Arianna Cruz-Sellu, GGRC Cultural Diversity Specialist, who presented some common myths about the Regional Center which may dissuade people from applying. Some of them include the fact that are no income limitations or requirements, as with other State-funded programs, and that Regional Centers do not report to ICE or take legal status into consideration. The presentation concluded with a question-and-answer period, in which the panelists and participants discussed what might stop somebody from accessing regional center services, how cultural identity might affect someone's experience of regional centers, how can regional centers be understanding of concerns, and what parents would like from the regional centers.