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Reports, Policies & Law

Eligibility & Laws

Any resident of San Diego or Imperial County believed to have a developmental disability may receive intake services through the San Diego Regional Center. Anyone may refer a person suspected of having a developmental disability. Formal application, however, must be made by an adult applicant, parent, conservator or guardian. Residents of Imperial County apply for services at the Regional Center office in Imperial. Residents of San Diego County apply at the headquarters office of the San Diego Regional Center.

The Lanterman Developmental Disabilities Act is the law that gives people with developmental disabilities in California the right to services and supports. It allows clients to live a more independent and fulfilling life. The Lanterman Act begins with section 4500 and runs through section 4846 of the California Welfare and Institutions Code. The Regional Center services provided are based on state law as described in the Lanterman Act. All purchased services must meet both the needs and the choices of each individual person. §§ 4501, 4512(b).

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Appeals & Complaints

The San Diego Regional Center (SDRC) is committed to building strong partnerships with individuals and families and our goal is to be responsive to each person’s unique circumstances and individualized service needs. However, despite our best efforts, there may be a time when an applicant for, or a recipient of, services from the San Diego Regional Center disagrees with the decision we have made.

If you disagree with a decision we have made at SDRC, you may ask us to review our decision to make certain

all information was considered. Most issues are resolved informally through this process of open discussions

with your service coordinator or his/her supervisor (Program Manager). If; however, the matter continues to be

unresolved to your satisfaction, you may request to participate in the Fair Hearing Process, which may include

mediation, an informal hearing or an informal hearing or fair hearing.

The California Welfare and Institutions Code Section 4700 mandates that regional centers shall have a fair hearing procedure for resolving conflicts between the regional center and applicants for, or recipients of, service. This procedure may be used to appeal any action of the regional center which is believed to be illegal, discriminatory or not in the best interest of the applicant or recipient.

Governor Gavin Newsom
State Capitol, Suite 1173, Sacramento, CA 95814
(916) 445-2841

ARCA Legislative Bill File

The Association of Regional Center Agencies (ARCA) provides legislative advocacy and representation for the 21 regional centers in California. ARCA meets and interacts on a regular basis with policymakers to represent the needs and concerns of the regional center system- which includes clients, parents and family members of the people receiving regional center services, regional centers and the regional center staff. View the current legislative bills that ARCA supports and opposes.

State of California Elected Officials

Purchase of Services Data

In June 2012, the Lanterman Act was amended, requiring Regional Centers to work with the California Department of Developmental Services to collect and post the following data related to Purchase of Service (POS) authorization, utilization and expenditures for each regional center.

Purchase of Services Data

Laws & Regulations

Drawing on a Board
Image by Juan Encalada

Lanterman Developmental Disabilities
Services Act

The Lanterman Developmental Disabilities Act (“Lanterman Act” or “the Act”) is the law that gives people with developmental disabilities in California the right to services and supports that will allow them to live a more independent and normal life.
The Lanterman Act begins with section 4500 and runs through section 4846 of the California Welfare and Institutions Code.
The services and supports must meet both the needs and the choices of each person individually. §§ 4501, 4512(b).

California Early Intervention
Services Act

Cal. Gov. Code Secs. 95000 – 95030 and regulations in Title 17 C.C.R. govern early intervention services for all eligible children aged 0 – 3 in California. The California Early Intervention Services Act is designed “to provide a statewide system of coordinated, comprehensive, family-centered, multidisciplinary, interagency programs, responsible for providing appropriate early intervention services and support to still eligible infants and toddlers and their families.” [Cal. Gov. Code Sec. 95002.] This bill became effective on September 30, 1993.

California Code of Regulations - Title 17

The California Code of Regulations (CCR) contain the regulations that have been formally adopted by state agencies, reviewed and approved by the Office of Administrative Law and filed with the Secretary of State. The CCR consists of 28 titles and contains the regulations of approximately 200 regulatory agencies.

Regional Center Oversight Dashboard

The Department of Developmental Services (DDS) monitors the actions and efforts of Regional Centers to ensure they meet statutory, regulatory and contractual obligations, and uphold the values of the Lanterman Act, the legislation guiding the developmental services system in California.

Mental Health Services Act

The Mental Health Services Act (MHSA), approved by voters in November 2004, allocates funds to assist counties and state agencies in meeting all responsibilities of the MHSA. The Department of Developmental Services (DDS) has awarded $2.2 million in funding to regional centers to develop and implement innovative projects.

Project Summary

Project Outcomes
Activities & Deliverables

Psychiatric Navigation Project  Brochure

Planting Trees

Rights & Responsibilities

Each person with a developmental disability has the same rights, protections, and responsibilities as all other persons under the laws and the Constitution of the state of California, and under the laws and Constitution of the United States. Unless otherwise restricted by law, these rights may be exercised at will by any person with a developmental disability. These rights include, but are not limited to:

I. Access Rights
​A right to treatment and habilitation services. Treatment and habilitation services shall foster the developmental potential of the person. Such services shall protect the personal liberty of the individual and shall be provided under conditions which are the least restrictive necessary to achieve the purposes of treatment.

  • A right to dignity, privacy, and humane care.

  • A right to participate in an appropriate program of publicly-supported education, regardless of the degree of handicap.

  • A right to religious freedom and practice, including the right to attend services or to refuse attendance, to participate in worship or not to participate in worship.

  • A right to prompt and appropriate medical care and treatment.

  • A right to social interaction and participation in community activities.

  • A right to physical exercise and recreational opportunities.

  • A right to be free from harm, including unnecessary physical restraint, or isolation, excessive medication, abuse or neglect. Medication shall not be used as punishment, for convenience of staff, as a substitute for program, or in quantities that interfere with the treatment program.

  • A right to be free from hazardous procedures.

  • A right to advocacy services, as provided by law, to protect and assert the civil, legal, and service rights to which any person with a developmental disability is entitled.

  • A right to be free from discrimination by exclusion from participation in, or denial of the benefits of, any program or activity which receives public funds solely by reason of being a person with a developmental disability.

  • A right of access to the courts for purposes including, but not limited to the following:

    • To protect or assert any right to which any person with a developmental disability is entitled;

    • To question a treatment decision affecting such rights once the administrative remedies provided by law, if any, have been exhausted;

    • To inquire into the terms and conditions of placement in any community care or health facility, or state hospital, by way
      of a writ of habeas corpus, and to contest a guardianship or conservatorship, its terms, and/or the individual or entity appointed as guardian or conservator.

II. Personal Rights

Each person with a developmental disability who has been admitted or committed to a state hospital, community care facility, or health facility shall have rights which include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • To keep and be allowed to spend one’s own money for personal and incidental needs.

  •  To keep and wear one’s own clothing.

  • To keep and use one’s own personal possessions, including toilet articles.

  • To have access to individual storage space for one’s private use.

  • To see visitors each day.

  • To have reasonable access to telephones, both to make and receive confidential calls, and to have calls made for one upon request.

  • To mail and receive unopened correspondence and to have ready access to letter-writing materials, including sufficient postage in the form of United States postal stamps.

  • To refuse electroconvulsive therapy (“ECT”).

  • To refuse behavior modification techniques which cause pain or trauma.

  • To refuse psychosurgery. Psychosurgery means those operations currently referred to as lobotomy, psychiatric surgery, and behavioral surgery and all other forms of brain surgery if the surgery is performed for any of the following purposes:

    • Modification or control of thoughts, feelings, actions, or behavior rather than treatment of a known and diagnosed physical disease of the brain.

    • Modification of normal brain function or normal brain tissue in order to control thoughts, feelings, actions, or behavior.

    • Treatment of abnormal brain function or abnormal brain tissue in order to modify thoughts, feelings, actions, or behavior when the abnormality is not an established cause for those thought, feelings, actions, or behavior.

    • Other rights as specified by administrative regulations of any federal, state, or local agency.

      Authority: Section 11152, Government Code.

      Reference: Sections 4423, 4473, 4503 and 4504, Welfare and Institutions Code.

III. Denial of Rights for “Good Cause”

Denial of Rights for “Good Cause” by a Licensed Residential Facility Residents of facilities, licensed by the State of California to serve persons with developmental disabilities may have specific rights denied them by the licensee. These specific rights may be denied only under the following conditions:

The licensee or the licensee’s designee may, for “GOOD CAUSE”, deny a resident any of the rights listed under Personal Rights (a) through (g) inclusive. No other right listed may be denied unless authorized by the court system.

“GOOD CAUSE” exists only when the licensee makes an explicit finding that:

  • The exercise of the specific right sought to be denied would be injurious to the individual otherwise entitled to exercise it; or

  • There is evidence that the specific right sought to be denied if exercised by that individual, would seriously infringe on the rights of others; or

  • The institution or facility would suffer serious damage to the physical plant if the specific right is not denied; and,

  • There is no less restrictive means of protecting the specific interest listed in (1), (2), or (3) of this subsection.


The reason used to justify the denial for good cause of any right must be related to the specific right denied. A right shall not be withheld or denied as a punitive measure, nor shall any right be considered a privilege to be earned. A treatment modality, approach or plan shall not constitute good cause for the denial of any right specified in this subchapter.

At the time any good cause denial commences, the person who is being denied any right shall be informed of the right to:

  • Appeal the basis for the denial via the complaint procedure or the Fair Hearing Process provided in Welfare and Institutions Code Sections 4700-4725.

  • Refuse to submit to the denial of right for good cause and vacate the facility (if resident is an individual who is lawfully entitled to depart the facility at will).


Authority: Section 11152, Government Code; and Section 4416, Welfare and Institutions Code.

Reference: Sections 4503, 4504 and 4648(b), Welfare and Institutions Code.


IV. Complaint Procedure

A complaint procedure is available for clients or representatives acting for a consumer who believe a right to which the client is entitled has been abused, punitively withheld, or improperly or unreasonably denied by a regional center, developmental center, or service provider. Initial referral of any complaint shall be to the director of the regional center. If the consumer resides in a state developmental center, the complaint shall be made to the director of the state developmental center. The director shall, within 20 days, investigate the complaint and send a written proposed resolution. If the complaint is not resolved, additional administrative procedures are available. Service coordinators advocate for the rights of consumers. Advocacy has many definitions, but certainly it requires an understanding and knowledge of the rights of all citizens, the ability to encourage and support implementation of these rights in any setting, and the willingness to intervene in an appropriate manner when necessary.

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