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Support & education groups

What is Coordinated Services or Medicaid Service Coordination?

The first thing an admission department will discuss with you is eligibility. They provide you with the necessary paperwork and advice to determine eligibility for services if you have not already done so. Do not be afraid of the word Medicaid. In New York State, Medicaid is the system that funds the majority of services for people with developmental disabilities.

The philosophy behind service coordination is that everyone with a developmental disability (referred to as a program participant) should have an opportunity to determine the direction of his of her life.

The role of the service coordinator is to seek out programs for people focusing on: individualization, independence, inclusion and productivity. Specific services and supports range from assistance with financial matters, arranging respite, securing leisure and recreational activities, identifying environmental modifications and adaptive equipment if necessary, and providing in-home and out-of-home services, etc. Enabling individuals to make their own choices promotes change, growth and the ability to meet new challenges every day.

What are Supportive Services?

Supportive services provide assistance to families who have a family member with a disability or to individuals with disabilities who live on their own. A variety of options and supports are available that include: recreation (youth beginning at age 10 and adult); guardianship; self advocacy; exceptional parenting; home care training/daily living assistance and community habilitation.

What is Guardianship?

Guardianship is a legal proceeding brought in Surrogate’s Court, which designates a parent, relative, friend, or an organization, to act on behalf of an individual with a developmental disability who is incapable of managing his or her own personal affairs without assistance. Guardianship enables parents to ensure that they, or other designees of their choosing, can act as advocates with legal authority on behalf of their children in protecting their rights, fostering their quality of life. The process empowers a guardian to maximize all available resources for the benefit of the person with a developmental disability.

In New York State, parents of persons with a developmental disability are considered the natural guardians of their children, as with any other child, until the child turns 18. After a person turns 18, he or she is deemed legally competent. Guardianship authorizes parents to exercise legal supervision of their children and provide them with lifetime protection even after they reach the age of 18. Once guardianship is obtained, it will extend for the lifetime of the individual, until terminated by the court. Legal guardianship cannot be granted from, or specified in, a will.

Senior high school and beyond

Many parents are unsure of what services are available for their children upon graduation or aging out of the school system. As your child is entering senior high school it is helpful to select a school involved with a school-to-work transition program. This partnership between the school district, students, parents, teachers and community-based developmental disability professionals will greatly enhance a student’s success as they leave school and enter a career or the adult service system. Creating a link to these services will put a parent’s mind at ease.

One such program is called S.T.E.P.S. (School Transition and Employment Program for Success) of Opportunities Unlimited of Niagara and can provide assistance to students. The transition exposures have given many individuals the needed training and work skills to be successful in a job after graduation.

Lastly, remember you are not alone. There are caring, dedicated professionals across the region ready to create lifetime opportunities for people with developmental disabilities and their families. Many organizations even offer family support groups that can be a wealth of information. Our employees and volunteers look forward to serving you and your family members. Please call us at (716) 504-2617 or contact Lori Flaugher at lflaugher@opportunitiesunlimited.org for more information.