What Are Alternative & Participant Directed Services?


On August 31, 2020, as a result of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the Department of Developmental Services (DDS) issued a state directive allowing regional center-funded services to be provided in alternative ways. Alternative services may be an option for our clients, to make sure that your individual needs continue to be met.

Alternative services are a way to continue to fund service provider resources, so that they and their direct staff workforce remain available to serve you. The Department of Developmental Services also wants to make sure that California can continue to receive federal funding to support regional center services.

If a regional center service provider is not able to provide the same service in the same way as it was provided before the pandemic, or able to offer the same services remotely or in an alternate location, then they may offer an alternative service. The alternative service could be very different from what the provider typically offers. When the service provider explains what kind of alternative services can be provided, you can discuss them with your service coordinator and service provider. If you feel that the alternative service they are offering will work for you, you must agree to receive these alternative services.

Summary of Frequently Asked Questions for Self-Advocates and Families About Participant-Directed Services During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Department of Developmental Services

Regional centers can pay for more types of services using the Participant Directed Services model so that individuals and families have more choice and flexibility during the COVID-19 Pandemic. These Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) explain Participant-Directed Services and how they may help individuals and families during COVID-19.

1. What Are Participant-Directed Services?

Participant-Directed Services let the consumer or family choose who to hire, schedule, and supervise the work for some types of Individual Program Plan (IPP) services. The services can be used by individuals who live in their own home, their family home and some community living arrangements.

2. How Can Participant-Directed Services Help Me?

Sometimes it may be hard for individuals or families to find providers. Participant-Directed Services let you use providers or individuals you already know, or who speak in your language. You can also have the provider work for you when you need them.

3. Which IPP Services Can Be Participant-Directed?

Some Participant-Directed Services were available before COVID:
• Respite
• Day care
• Non-medical transportation
• Day Services
• Nursing
These Participant-Directed Services will continue after COVID.

Some regional centers use other names for these ongoing Participant-Directed Services and may call them “Employer-of-Record,” “Conversion,” or “*Self-Directed,” but the concept is the same.
*At HRC these have been referred to as self-directed services.

Because of COVID-19, Participant-Directed Services temporarily includes:
• Personal assistance
• Independent living skills
• Supported employment services
These services give individuals and families more options during COVID

4. Who Can I Hire to Provide Participant-Directed Services?

  • You must use a Financial Management Services (FMS) agency. Your regional center has information about how to do this.
  • The FMS you select helps you hire and pay staff.
  • The person must be 18 years old or older.
  • The individual must be eligible to work.
  • The individual you hire does not need to be a regional center vendor.
  • The individual has the needed job skills.

You may hire a family member, friend, or another qualified person.

A spouse or parent generally cannot provide respite, day care, personal assistance, or independent living skills.

5. What Steps Should I Take If I Want to Use Participant-Directed Services?

Contact your service coordinator and tell them you want to use Participant-Directed Services. Discuss which IPP services you want to get this way.

  • Your service coordinator can help you find a Financial Management Service (FMS) to handle payroll, taxes, and reporting. 
  • Ask your FMS what rules you must follow as an employer.
  • Identify the individuals you want to hire.
  • Ask those individuals to submit the required information to the FMS. The worker cannot start work or be paid until these forms are provided and approved:

• Verification of age
• Verification of qualifications
• Eligibility for employment
• Federal disclosure information
• CPR/First Aid certification is required for in-home respite. It must be provided within 30 days of starting work.

6. How Are Participant-Directed Services Approved?

The regional center will approve these services with the FMS for the amounts specified in your IPP.

7. How Does the Worker Get Paid?

The FMS pays the worker and the taxes after you approve the worker’s timesheet. The regional center will tell you the set rate. The rate includes payroll taxes and other costs. For example, the minimum hourly rate for personal assistance, supported employment, and independent living skills services is $22.80 an hour. The minimum hourly rate for respite is $17.03 per hour. Nursing services are paid at a higher rate.

8. What Happens to My Services That Aren’t Provided Through the Participant-Directed Model?

All other services in the consumer’s IPP will continue to be provided by regional center vendors.

9. Can I Use A Combination of Vendored and Participant-Directed Services From My Regular Respite Agency?

You may use both vendored and Participant-Directed Services for your respite services. For example, if your regular respite agency is not able to provide a respite worker, you may use Participant-Directed Services for the “unused” hours that have been approved. This may help you if you have more respite hours because of COVID. You can use your respite agency as your FMS agency. This is sometimes called “employer of record”. If the same respite worker, works more than 40 hours per week for you, this will count as overtime pay. Your FMS or Service Coordinator can assist you with overtime questions.

10. What If I Need Additional or Different Services?

Because of COVID-19 you may need more services or want a different kind of service. school, or work may be closed. Or you may need home-based independent living skills training for safety. You can talk to your service coordinator or your IPP team to assist you or to help you find generic services or more support from your current program.

Want to Learn More?

The Department of Developmental Services (DDS) has posted a Family Member Engagement Guide to help clients and families think about current needs as it relates to alternative services.

DDS also posted list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) regarding alternative services intended for clients, family members, service providers and the general community.

For information on the types of Participant-Directed Services and a description of each service, go to DDS issued guidance for providing Participant-Directed Services

Department of Developmental Services Directives

December 23, 2020: Overtime Pay for Participant-Directed Respite Services During the COVID-19 State of Emergency

Directiva del Departamento Pago por Horas Extra por Servicios de Respiro Dirigidos por El Participante Durante El Estado de Emergencia de COVID-19