What is the OPWDD?


Recently, as part of our inclusion events series, the 14th Street Y presented a webinar with autism advocate and author Ken Siri about Self-Direction services from the OPWDD. Some families have not yet heard of the OPWDD or Self-Direction, so we thought it would be a good idea to take a step back and provide some context on what the OPWDD is and how it can help families with children with special needs.

The OPWDD stands for the Office of People with Developmental Disabilities, and it is New York’s state agency tasked with providing funding and services to individuals who fall into certain disability categories. While a person can apply for funding at any age, the disability needs to have occurred before age 22.

All prospective applicants must first attend a “Front Door Meeting,” which is a kind of orientation session, where experts discuss issues with families such as eligibility and the range of services provided. Attendees must first register for a Front Door Meeting with the OPWDD office in their region. These sessions are now being held virtually, so they are still accessible to families in need of services.

Families and individuals can then submit their documentation directly to the OPWDD through the appropriate channels, or they can go through a Care Coordination Organization who will compile their application and review it first at no charge to increase the likelihood of it being approved. The OPWDD will then make a determination of eligibility based on this application within thirty days.

Being able to access thousands of dollars of supports and services can provide a much-needed lifeline to families struggling to cover the cost of therapies, independence training, socialization programs and other interventions.

Once a disabled person gets approval, they have two options for how to receive services. In both cases, the person’s case is monitored by a care manager at a Care Coordination Organization.

  • The traditional agency model, where people choose to receive services and classes from staff who are employed by agencies.
  • The individual (or their caregiver) can opt for self-direction, where they are given a budget and they then create a personal program with that funding.

Often, even after learning more during a Front Door Meeting, families and people with disabilities may still have doubts about the OPWDD. That’s where we come in. If you have questions about navigating the OPWDD, you can watch the Self-Direction Q&A we held or email me at cwhite@14streety.org for assistance.

The 14Y also partners with organizations that specialize in working with people with disabilities. Our partner YAI is offering information sessions to clarify any confusion surrounding this important resource. YAI will be offering webinars addressing navigating the OPWDD throughout the month of August. For more information and to register for a session, click here.