IRC Expands Position to Better Serve the Community

Dr. CJ Cook, DBABlog, Employees

Estimated Reading Time: 6 Minutes

Inland Regional Center has created a new position under Eric Hamler – Senior Program Manager over Transition Age Units to support individuals and families called the Participant Choice Specialist.

The Participant Choice Specialist assists clients served by IRC in gaining an understanding of how to access Participant Directed Services (PDS) and the Self-Determination Program (SDP). This position is a pivotal point of contact for regional center staff and the community.

According to the Department of Developmental Services (DDS), PDS offers flexibility to support clients and their families. PDS offers more control over how and by whom some Individual Program Plan (IPP) services are provided. The client or family choose who to hire, schedule when the person works, and supervises their work.

PDS types may include:

  1. Respite
  2. Day Care
  3. Non-Medical Transportation
  4. Nursing

According to DDS, the Self-Determination Program (SDP) is available to all eligible regional center clients who are interested, effective June 7, 2021. If an IRC client is interested in enrolling in the SDP, they should contact their IRC Consumer Service Coordinator (CSC). If they need assistance in making the connection, they may email [email protected] with their name and date of birth and the web team will provide a response and connect the individual with their assigned service coordinator if needed.

The SDP allows the IRC client the opportunity to have more control in developing their service plans and selecting service providers to better meet their needs.

SDP provides:

  1. IRC clients with more control and flexibility over services and supports.
  2. SDP is a voluntary program that provides clients with an individual budget to purchase the services and supports they need to implement their Individual Program Plan (IPP).

To learn more about SDP, please visit

The two Participant Choice Specialists hired by IRC to complete these critical tasks are Alan Munoz and Alejandra Rivera.

When asked how he stays motivated, Allan said “I stay motivated by taking on new challenges. In the last year I embarked in my greatest challenge, fatherhood. It has been the most humbling experience of my life. From a lack of sleep, to worrying if my son is eating enough, to hearing him laugh for the first time. It is a journey that keep me motivated.” Allan also enjoys hiking. His favorite hikes are Mt. Baldy and Cactus to the Clouds (Palm Springs). As well, Allan loves jiu jitsu, and is a purple belt in that discipline. I also enjoy playing chess, however, I just started in the last year. I have a lot to learn.”

Allan’s goals as the Participant Choice Specialist are to build a comprehensive plan to facilitate understanding in PDS and SDP for individuals served, families, and IRC staff. He plans to be a resource to the community and an advocate to give clients choices, control, and empowerment.

Allan has worked for a non-public school for over three years, whose philosophy was focusing on each student’s mental, physical, and emotional empowerment. It is a source of pride for Allan to have worked at a non-public school that never employed restraints or seclusion techniques in behaviors intervention plans. Before that, Allan served in the United States Marine Corps. He served four years in active duty as a 7011 Expeditionary Airfield Systems Technician. His duties were to arrest aircraft in precautionary or emergency settings. He completed his service as a Sergeant E-5.

Allan’s overall philosophy has been derived from his time in the United States Marine Corps and serving at the NPS. His foundation is set on dependability, resilience, and reflection. Allan went onto to say, “My community must be able to trust me by consistently serving them with respect and fostering empowerment. Resilience to me means— even if I fail, I will continue to push forward and look for solutions. I will not be deterred by obstacles. My view on PDS and SPD is ‘to get something you never had you must do something you never did.’ It might not be an easy journey, but it is one I am willing to do with you.”

When we asked Alejandra what motivated her, she said, “I’m intrinsically motivated to serve the I/DD population. It’s rewarding to make a positive impact and improve outcomes in the lives of our clients.” Outside of work, Alejandra enjoys reading, singing, going to the beach, and spending time with family.

Alejandra said, “In this role, my goal is to assist the team with increasing and expediting enrollment. Another goal is to raise awareness and understanding of the program for all stakeholders. Additionally, I look forward to continuing participating at the local Self-Determination Advisory Committee (SDAC).”

Alejandra has been working in the disability/family services field for close to 16 years. She worked for various non-profit organizations and most recently in state service. Her previous experience included training caregivers and professionals in topics including Special Education, Positive Behavioral Interventions, Transition, Evidenced Based Practices for Autism, the Lanterman Act, and Self Determination. She also provided individual support to families in navigating disability service systems. I previously also worked collaboratively with IRC in my role as manager of an access and equity project funded by the Department of Developmental Services.

When asked about her over philosophy behind the new position Alejandra said, “I believe Self Determination can transform participants’ lives. They can choose their employees, goods, and/or service providers and have a team that is supporting them to accomplish their goals. It’s an amazing program; I’m excited to be part of the team at IRC that supports participants to have choice and lead self -determined lives.”

Alejandra and Alan will conduct training for regional center staff, including Service Coordinators and those involved in the fair hearing process, as needed, about the principles of self-determination, how services are obtained through SDP and the rights of SDP participants. Training may also be provided in conjunction with the local volunteer advisory committee as directed by [Welfare and Institutions (W&I) Code section 4685.8(r)(9)].

As well, Alejandra and Alan will strive to meet SDP enrollment targets and benchmarks as stated in [W&I Code section 4685.8(r)(1)].

The Participant Choice Specialist team will also develop and implement an outreach and training plan for diverse communities and obtain input from stakeholders about the effectiveness of the outreach, training, and other strategies. The plan shall encompass information about all participant directed service options, including SDP as defined by [W&I Code section 4685.8(r)(2)].


This blog is not a solicitation for services. Additionally, a specific service or service provider may not be available, applicable, or appropriate for all clients. Any request for services must be initiated by the client/family and facilitated by the IRC Consumer Service Coordinator (CSC). Any approved services must meet the guidelines set in the law by the Lanterman Act and be added to the client’s IPP.

Please always feel free to email your CSC with any specific questions. If you need assistance with contacting your CSC, email [email protected].  Please include the client’s full name and date of birth in your inquiry.


Posted by:

Dr. CJ Cook, DBA

As Program Administrator, CJ is responsible for the proactive oversight of various units within IRC, including Community Management, Service Access and Equity, and Training and Development. CJ's oversight extends to Language Access and Cultural Competency (LACC), Community-Based Organizations (CBOs), equity in the Purchase of Service (POS), and the National Core Indicator (NCI) project. Furthermore, CJ is tasked with managing the IRC's Performance Contract with DDS and overseeing Emergency Services.

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