One of the great interruptions in the quality of lives of people with developmental disabilities, and a barrier to the efficiency of the system is the frequent failure to provide services on a continuous spectrum. The initial concept behind the Individual Program Plans (IPPs) is to assess the needs of the client in order to provide exactly what is needed to mediate the effects of the disability and provide for a meaningful life in the community. It's been widely agreed that the IPP is the central administrative and regulatory event in the provision of services in California's Developmental Disability System.
The IPP is designed to take into account the nuances that every individual brings to their own assistance. The client is expected to be both the central object and leading subject in the development of their own plan. The IPP carries every aspiration that well-meaning people have for useful service and every hope the taxpayers have for an efficient system.
Once the IPP is complete, however, the plan typically loses most of it's meaning as Service Coordinators try to allocate the meaning from the client's plan into vendor codes. Vendor codes represent modes of providing services and allow the delivery system to be regulated according to function. Most Regional Centers, often influenced by their vendor community and to a lesser extent, their clients, typically establish Purchase of Service policies (POS) based on restrictions on who can receive services from which vendor type under what circumstances and to what extent. This system offers efficiencies for the administration of a Regional Center but is just as clearly inefficient for the support of people with disabilities.
The processing of needs into codes might not be fatal where the understanding is, as it is in law, that the POS standards are guidelines for arranging things of lesser status than the POS. Essentially, the deal statute makes with the Regional Centers is: Set up your POS policies and if you can meet the client's needs within them great and if not, you must exempt the client from the policy. That's not the deal typically made between Regional Centers and clients which can often be summarized as I understand that's what you need, let me see what I got. I'll look at the POS policies.
Vendor codes makes sense to me. To assure minimum quality standards, it is necessary to regulate agencies and the vendor codes allow that to be done appropriately for broad categories of modes of service. For example, it is generally inappropriate to have three ILS clients being served by one staffperson at a time whereas at a site based program, the minimum appropriate ratio might be higher than that.
But given that services are placed in broad categories, keeping faith with clients and their IPPs requires that these categories be understood as ranges on a continuum not as separate and distinct modes. Seeking to fulfill a client-centered IPP with vendor-centered service purchasing betrays choice by limiting choices.