Understanding the Lanterman Act: Eligibility Requirements and Timeframes

Dr. CJ Cook, DBABlog

Estimated Reading Time: 5 Minutes


This blog is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute an acceptance into any regional center or a denial of services. The content provided here is not a formal determination of eligibility or an official communication from any regional center or related authority. For specific information regarding acceptance or denial of services, eligibility criteria, or official notifications, individuals and their families should contact the respective regional center or relevant agency directly. This blog is not a substitute for professional advice or official documentation, and any decisions or actions taken should be based on official guidance and communication from the appropriate authorities.


The Lanterman Act, officially known as the Lanterman Developmental Disabilities Services Act, is a pivotal piece of legislation in California that has transformed the way services and support are provided to individuals with developmental disabilities. Enacted in 1969, this act emphasizes the principles of dignity, respect, and self-determination for individuals with developmental disabilities. In this blog, we will delve into the Lanterman Act, exploring its eligibility requirements and timeframes for accessing services.

The Lanterman Act: An Overview

The Lanterman Act established a comprehensive system of services and supports for individuals with developmental disabilities and their families in California. It is named after Frank D. Lanterman, a former California legislator who was a strong advocate for the rights and well-being of individuals with developmental disabilities. Lanterman 2023 (ca.gov)

Twenty- One Regional Centers in California

In California, the state’s Department of Developmental Services (DDS) operates a network of 21 regional centers. These regional centers play a pivotal role in providing services and support to individuals with developmental disabilities and their families. Home – CA Department of Developmental Services : CA Department of Developmental Services

Eligibility Requirements

To access services and supports under the Lanterman Act, individuals must meet specific eligibility criteria, which include:

Developmental Disability: The criteria for providing regional center services to individuals with developmental disabilities, as outlined in Section 4512(a) of the Welfare and Institutions Code, defines a “Developmental Disability” as a disability that originates before an individual turns 18, persists indefinitely, and significantly impairs the individual. It includes intellectual developmental disabilities, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, and autism. Additionally, it encompasses conditions closely related to intellectual developmental disabilities or those requiring treatment similar to individuals with intellectual developmental disabilities. Notably, it excludes other conditions that are solely physical or psychiatric in nature. Law section (ca.gov)

Establishing Eligibility: It’s important to note that learning disabilities and disabilities solely of a psychiatric or physical nature are not included in the definition of developmental disabilities. Eligibility | Inland Regional Center (inlandrc.org)

Key points to keep in mind:

The 21 regional centers do not serve as diagnostic centers.

Our assessments are conducted to determine eligibility under WIC 4512.

We do not provide mental health services.

Documents We Will Need: For individuals over the age of 3 applying for services, the application process requires the submission of the following documents:

School records, including the most recent Individualized Education Plan (IEP) or 504 plan.

Medical records, including diagnostic testing and psychological assessments.

Please note that a prescription note is not a substitute for these records.

Residency: The individual must be a San Bernardino or Riverside County resident.

You can find your local regional center using this directory if you live in a county other than Riverside or San Bernardino.

Regional Center Listings – CA Department of Developmental Services : CA Department of Developmental Services

  1. Lanterman Act Age Requirements: The act focuses on children over the age of 3 and adults with developmental disabilities.
  2. For information on Early Start (Birth to 36 months), please refer to Early-Start-Information-Packet-IRC-R.pdf (inlandrc.org)
  3. How to Apply: To apply for services, please visit inlandrc.org and click on the Apply page at the top.

Please note that we are unable to conduct case screenings over the phone.

Timeframes for Accessing Services

Access to services under the Lanterman Act is subject to specific timeframes and procedures, which include:

  1. Assessment: An eligibility assessment may take up to 120 days. After determining eligibility, a comprehensive assessment of the individual’s needs is conducted. This assessment helps identify the types and levels of services required.

Denials are sent via registered mail and require a signature. The letter, a Notice of Action (NOA), will include information about the rights to appeal against the decision.

Activated cases will be assigned a Consumer Services Coordinator (CSC), and an Individualized Program Plan (IPP) meeting will be scheduled.

  1. Individual Program Plan (IPP): An Individual Program Plan is developed, outlining the services, supports, and goals tailored to the individual’s needs. The IPP is created in collaboration with the individual, their family, and a regional center. Clients/Families | Inland Regional Center (inlandrc.org)
  2. Service Coordination: The regional center assists in coordinating and ensuring access to the approved services using approved vendors or service providers.
  3. Periodic Review: The Lanterman Act mandates regular reviews and updates of the IPP to reflect changes in the individual’s needs and goals. IRC offers a quarterly, semi-annual or annual status for check in meetings.
  4. Appeals Process: Individuals and families have the right to appeal decisions related to services, supports, or funding under the Lanterman Act if they disagree with the regional center’s determination. Lanterman Act Eligibility & Service Appeals – CA Department of Developmental Services : CA Department of Developmental Services


The Lanterman Act has been instrumental in championing the rights and improving the quality of life for individuals with developmental disabilities and their families in California. By providing clear eligibility requirements and establishing timeframes for accessing services and supports, the act ensures that those in need receive the assistance necessary to achieve their full potential while promoting self-determination and inclusion in the community. For specific information and guidance regarding eligibility, services, and timelines under the Lanterman Act, it is advisable to contact your local regional center or a qualified professional in the field of developmental disabilities.

To get in touch with IRC, please utilize the “Contact Us” option available on inlandrc.org, or you can reach out to us via email at [email protected]. To expedite assistance, kindly include a phone number, specify the county you reside in, provide the client’s name, and include their date of birth.


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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