This month DDD began transferring the first of almost 20,000 individuals from DDD case managers to the DDS’ Office of Information and Assistance Services, where their primary contact for all service-related questions will be nationally-certified Information and Referral Specialists. Many of these individuals, who will be slowly transferred in groups over the next year, are under the age of 22, live with their families, attend public schools and are currently in need of information about insurance, benefits, transportation, education, future employment and resources that are provided by organizations other than DDD.
“This collaboration will help to address the complex needs of individuals with developmental disabilities and their families early on,” said Commissioner Velez. “Long before a person may need DDD case management; they may need information about resources that are not provided by DDD and that DDS’ Information and Referral Specialists can help them to navigate.”
Younger individuals account for approximately 45 percent of DDD’s entire caseload of 41,000 people. Many younger DDD-eligible individuals do not yet need specialized case-management services related to their developmental disabilities. When they do require specialized case-management services, DDS will refer them back to DDD. This collaboration will also reduce the caseloads of DDD case mangers, whose efforts must focus on cases with the most intense needs.
“Our goal is to make our system as helpful as possible for individuals and their families, who are often overwhelmed when they try to access what they need,” said DHS Assistant Commissioner Kenneth Ritchey, who oversees DDD. “By working with DDS, we will be able to get people the help they need to ease the day-to-day pressures that can arise for families caring for loved ones with developmental disabilities.”
DDS is designated as New Jersey’s single point of entry for all people who are seeking disability-related information. “Our Information and Referral Specialists have logged more than 100,000 calls since DDS began in 1998 and many of these calls have been from individuals with developmental disabilities,” said DDS Director William A. B. Ditto. “We are very familiar with the needs of people with developmental disabilities and we will be carefully phasing this in to make this as positive a transition as possible for DDD-eligible individuals and their families.”