FAQ concerning developmental disabilities

What is a developmental disability (DD)?

A developmental disability (DD) results from mental retardation or a severe, chronic disability occuring before adulthood such as cerebral palsy, spina bifida or autism. Conditions other than mental retardation must occur before the age of 22 and result in substantial limitations on three or more major life activities such as caring for one's self, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning or working.

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How many people have developmental disabilities?

An estimated 44,000 people in Tennessee have mental retardation, while 40,000 have severe, chronic disabilities other than mental retardation. Many people with DD need services to live in the community, either with their families or by themselves. With some assistance, many of these people can preserve their independence and participate in community life.

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What are the responsibilities of the Office of Developmental Disabilities Services?

The Office of Developmental Disabilities Services in the Department of Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities (DMHDD) is responsible to:

  • Plan, develop and administer services for people with DD, including DD Family Support Services
  • Provide training and technical assistance to DD contract service agencies
  • Contract with DD Local Access Agencies to accept applications, conduct functional assessments, and provide information, referral and assistance to people with DD
  • Manage the DD Family Support Program
  • Monitor eligibility determination for DD services
  • Arbitrate grievances and appeals
  • Maintain an inventory of available services for planning and referral
  • Carry out other functions determined by the Commissioner of the DMHDD

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Who is eligible for DD services?

For people over age 5, the law requires that eligibility for direct services be determined from complete information confirming or based upon:

  • Residence in the State of Tennessee
  • Diagnosis of mental and/or physical impairment by a qualified professional
  • Documentation of presence of developmental disability prior to age 22
  • Assessment of substantial limitations in adaptive functioning by trained staff

Children younger than age 5 will be eligible for DD direct services if the child has been determined to be eligible for or is currently receiving services funded by the Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, Tennessee Early Intervention System (TEIS) or preschool special education through a local agency.

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Are people with DD eligible for mental retardation services?

People with DD are only eligible for mental retardation services if they have a diagnosis of mental retardation. People with DD resulting from mental retardation will continue to receive services from the Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities within the Department of Finance and Administration.

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Are people with mental illness or serious emotional disturbance eligible for DD services?

The law excludes people with a diagnosis of DD solely based on mental illness or serious emotional disturbance (SED) from receiving DD services or supports. However, if an individual has mental retardation or a severe, chronic disability and a mental illness, then that person can receive DD direct services.

The law excludes people with a diagnosis of DD solely based on mental illness or serious emotional disturbance (SED) from receiving DD services or supports. However, if an individual has mental retardation or a severe, chronic disability a mental illness, then that person can receive DD direct services.

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Admissions Guidelines
FAQ concerning developmental disabilities


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