The California Regional Center System

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In 1964, a group of California parents with disabled children prompted the state to create A Study Commission on [Developmental Disabilities]. The study found that 13,000 individuals were living in overcrowded state hospitals which had a waitlist of another 3,000. Following the study, a 1965 report titled, “The Undeveloped Resource: A Plan for the [Developmentally Disabled] of California,” encouraged the state to place individuals with developmental disabilities in regional community-based centers rather than state hospitals. Governor Brown signed Assembly Bill 691 which created two regional centers that would help disabled individuals find services as well as provide diagnoses and move state hospital residents to community-based living. These two regional centers were located within the Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles and San Francisco Aid to [Disabled] Citizens. A few years later, Frank D. Lanterman introduced Assembly Bill 225 to increase the number of regional centers in California. The 21st regional center was established in 1976 as the Regional Center of the East Bay.

What do regional centers do and why are they important?

Regional centers are community-based nonprofit agencies that play a vital role in the coordination of developmental services. Regional centers determine the level of care needed for an individual based on their diagnosis and eligibility. Once a level of care is determined, the regional center coordinates with local service providers to determine which services are appropriate and available. Some common services purchased by regional centers include adult day programs, independent living services, residential care homes, therapy, etc. The 21 regional centers are overseen by the Department of Developmental Services (DDS) which was established by the Lanterman Developmental Disabilities Services Act. The regional center system in California is unlike any other state. Without the creation of regional centers, hundreds of thousands of individuals living with developmental disabilities would still be living in overcrowded institutions and receiving low-quality care. Just as LSA does, DDS believes that adults with developmental disabilities have the right to live independent and full lives.

Looking Forward

An estimated 407,634 individuals with developmental disabilities are expected to be served by regional centers during the 2022-2023 fiscal year. The 2022-2023 budget for developmental services is a total of $12.4 billion, an increase of $1.5 billion from the previous budget. This increase in funding will allow regional centers to increase their reimbursement rates for services and allow service providers to continue providing quality services amid a rocky economic and political climate.


Association of Regional Center Agencies – Regional Center History

Association of Regional Center Agencies

Department of Developmental Services

2022-2023 DDS Budget

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