Frequently Asked Questions about Developmental Disability Services

Rhode Island Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals
Last updated December 6, 2016

Please click here to read FAQ (Spanish version here) about adjusted rates paid to Developmental Disability organizations to support wage increases for frontline workers employed by these organizations.

November 16 SIS-A Training Information

Q: What's happening with the SIS?
A: The SIS (Supports Intensity Scale) is a validated tool that is being used in many states across the country. In Rhode Island, we have started using the SIS-A to better assess service and support needs for the individuals we serve.

Q: Can we provide an evaluation of our SIS assessors?
A: We are looking into ways to best collect information from individual’s families about their experience with the SIS process. In the meantime, if you have feedback about the SIS process, please send it to

Q: What is the background of the SIS Assessors?
A: According to the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (AAIDD) guidelines, the SIS should be administered by a professional who has completed a 4-year degree program and is working in the field of human services (for example, case manager, psychologist, social worker). However, under exceptional circumstances, others who have experience conducting individual assessments and possess an extensive knowledge of behavior rating or psychological testing principles may be acceptable.

At BHDDH, our SIS assessors meet these guidelines and have (at minimum) a Bachelor’s Degree. They were certified initially by AAIDD and each year go to trainings and are re-certified through AAIDD.

Q: If I have a complaint to make regarding the SIS assessment, who can I contact at the department?
A: If you have a complaint about the SIS assessment, please contact our Supervisor of the SIS Unit, Donna Standish, at

Q: Can we get copies of the SIS questions during the interview?
A: Yes. This suggestion was made at the November 2016 SIS-A training. The assessors are now bringing copies to the SIS-A assessments.

Q: Is the SIS-A available in Spanish?
A: Yes, it is available in Spanish. Please call Donna Standish at 462-2628 to coordinate an assessment in Spanish.

Q: What kinds of supports are available for to help families who self-direct conduct job searching and support the development of job coaches?
A: BHDDH is exploring available supports for families who self-direct as they pursue employment services.

Q: If my family member is in Hospice, will they require a SIS assessment?
A: No. We do not require a SIS for individuals receiving hospice care. If additional funding is needed, you can appeal.

Consent Decree

Q: How will you identify the 2013 youth that didn’t transition from school at age 21 into BHDDH services and/or a provider? Are they covered by the Consent Decree?
A: The RI Department of Education (RIDE) has provided the Office of Rehabilitative Services (ORS) and us the contact information for students who have left school since 2013 but are not receiving adult services. BHDDH and ORS sent a joint letter to these individuals reminding them that they are covered under the Consent Decree and that they may be entitled to supported employment services from both departments. The letter also provides contact information for assistance and follow up from each department.

Q: Does the consent decree say that there should no longer be any sheltered workshops?
The consent decree does not include this specific language. However, across the country states are phasing out the use of sheltered workshops. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services require services to be provided in an integrated community setting in order to receive funding. All states must be in compliance with this rule by 2019. Many families have also advocated for the elimination of sheltered workshops.

Employment Services

Q: How can we expect employers to pay individuals with developmental disabilities minimum wage, when they can barely afford it for their other employees?
A: The federal government has made it clear that subminimum wage is a discriminatory practice. In Rhode Island, more than 400 individuals living with a developmental disability are now working in the community at various jobs that take advantage of their unique skills. When you match a person's abilities to the right job, they should be making minimum wage because they are performing a legitimate job.

Q: What are some examples of specific activities that could be done in a day center now before someone is ready to be employed, rather than traditional activities such as going to the library?
A: We are encouraging programs to examine what kinds of activities individuals are interested in, and to develop opportunities based on interest. This could include partnering with community colleges, senior centers, or other places to expose individuals to new environments, where they can talk about what they've seen and the types of jobs available in those environments. An example could be visiting a senior center, observing people serving lunch, and exploring whether that's something an individual might like to do in the future.

Q: What kinds of supports are available for to help families who self-direct conduct job searching and support the development of job coaches?
A: BHDDH is exploring available supports for families who self-direct as they pursue employment services.

Q: What are the plans for helping agencies to make connections with possible "stepping stones" or employers? Many agencies are struggling to provide person-centered plans because of the lack of connection to these resources.
A: Our Employment Specialist is helping agencies make these connections by reaching out to the business community and creating partnerships that lead to employment.


Q: What additional funding has recently been made available to support developmental disability services?
A: Governor Raimondo requested, and the General Assembly approved, over $11 million in increased funding for developmental disability services in the fiscal year 2017 budget. Five million of that funding will support wage increases for direct service providers, with the balance allocated for supported employment and other integrated, community-based services for the federal consent decree target population. The funds represent a significant investment and are targeted and performance based.

Q: How are funds awarded?
A: Funds can be accessed through self-directed or agency programming. In order to receive funds, it has to be demonstrated that an individual is engaging in specific activities incentivized by the funds, such as receiving more integrated services. Funds are not only awarded if an individual receives a job, but can also be awarded to support steps along the path to employment.

Q: The lack of staff in the disability field is an ongoing issue due to low salaries. How are you addressing this?
A: Direct Support Professionals play a critical role in the ability of the individuals they support to reach their goals and be successful and deserve competitive wages and benefits. Governor Raimondo requested, and the General Assembly approved, over $11 million in increased funding for developmental disability services for Fiscal Year 2017. Five million of that funding will support much-needed wage increases for direct support professionals. The increase will be implemented by October 1 and be retroactive to July 1.

Residential Services

Q: I am having trouble finding available openings for residential services for my adult child. What can I do? How can I begin this process early to ensure my child can access services when he or she is ready?
A: We recognize that provider capacity is an issue and are working to expand capacity. Other parents can also be a good resource to help you identify agencies with openings that may be a good match for your family.

Q: What is happening with sharing living arrangements?
A: Group homes will always have a place in residential placement for individuals living with a developmental disability. However, there are other choices. In addition to group homes, some individuals may be interested in Shared Living Arrangements (SLA) or independent living with support options. SLAs are run by our Developmental Disabilities (DD) providers, who have numerous quality standards which must be met. The comprehensive matching between the individual and the SLA is extensive and completed by the provider which can include family members, friends, advocates, and our social case workers.

Matching a client to a SLA home is an extensive process, conducted by the DD provider and overseen by our department. The requirements include extensive personal interviews, character references, BCI check on each adult household member, home inspection report, personal preferences, cultural and religious values, compatibility with animals and children, and smoking preference.

All SLA providers must participate in training on the roles and responsibilities of the shared living arrangement contractor, Human Rights of Adults with Developmental Disabilities. Additionally, there is mandatory training regarding the reporting of abuse, community integration, annual Individual Service Plan process, access to medical and psychiatric supports, self-determination, CPR and first aid, individualized specific person centered planning, confidentiality, and a training on the neglect and mistreatment of adults with developmental disabilities to both the department and all appropriate law enforcement agencies.

SLAs are a choice made by home providers and individuals who are looking for a personalized residential option. For more information, please contact your Social Caseworker.


Q: Have specific criteria have been developed to evaluate progress to improve services for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities?
A: Yes. The consent decree includes specific criteria that may be used to examine progress to improve services across the entire developmental disabilities system. In addition to employment outcomes, we are measuring whether people are spending more time in the community; whether people have a plan that starts to move them to employment; and how transitions are going for young people moving from high school into the adult world.

Q: Can RIDE Transportation have a monitor other than the driver?
A: The Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals (BHDDH) is in ongoing discussion with RIPTA regarding transportation services, including those provided by The RIde Program. Most RIde passengers do not need more assistance than the driver provides. Passengers who do need more can have an assistant accompany them, but this needs to be arranged by the individual. RIPTA does not charge a fare for assistants, but they need to get on and off with the passenger..

Q: What is the timeline for hiring new leadership at BHDDH?
A: We are in the final stages of hiring permanent Administrator for the Division of Developmental Disabilities. We have not yet set a timeline to recruit a permanent BHDDH Director. Acting Director Becky Boss has agreed to serve for an extended period of time at the request of the Governor as we develop a plan for that transition.