The New York State Office for People With Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) is responsible for coordinating services for more than 128,000 New Yorkers with developmental disabilities, including intellectual disabilities, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, autism spectrum disorders, and other neurological impairments. It provides services directly and through a network of approximately 750 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.
Supports and services, which include Medicaid funded long-term care services such as habilitation and clinical services, as well as residential supports and services, are primarily provided in community settings across the state. Largely because of intensive treatment needs, about 1,200 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.