Intellectual Disabilities Service System in Pennsylvania

What this article is about:  this article provides a brief overview of the service system for people with intellectual disabilities in Pennsylvania and links to resources where you can find more support and information.

*The information below is specific to the Intellectual Disabilities service system in Pennsylvania.

  1. What is a Supports Coordinator?

Supports Coordinators (SCs) link people registered in the Intellectual Disabilities (ID) system and the services and supports they need. SCs ensure the people they support are healthy and safe.

  1. What are the main roles of a Supports Coordinator?

Supports Coordinators (SCs) have three key functions:

  • Locating supports, services, and other resources within the intellectual disabilities system and the community
  • Coordinating those supports and services
  • Monitoring to ensure the person’s needs are being met and the services are being provided appropriately through in-person visits.

SCs also hold team meetings to address any concerns or issues, update the Individual Supports Plan (ISP), attend IEP meetings at school, and apply for the Medicaid waiver that pays for needed supports and services.

  1. What is an Individual Supports Plan (ISP)?

An Individual Supports Plan, or ISP, is a document written by the Supports Coordinator (SC) which reviews various aspects of someone’s life, including their needs and strengths. This is a “living document”, meaning it can be updated and changed as people’s lives change.

  1. When should someone register for Supports Coordination?

Typically, it’s suggested that someone register for SC services by age 14. That way, the SC can assist the person throughout high school and into adult life. Supports Coordination is available for people of all ages, as long as they meet the criteria for services.

  1. Who is eligible for Supports Coordination services?

In order to be eligible for SC services, the person needs to have a diagnosis of an intellectual disability or autism given prior to age 22. If the person is a young child, age 0-8, a diagnosis of developmental disability is usually given instead of intellectual disability.

  1. How does someone register for Supports Coordination services?

The first step is to call the county’s Intellectual Disabilities (ID) office. Here are the numbers for southeastern Pennsylvania: *Berks: 610-236-0530 *Bucks: 215-444-2800 *Chester: 610-344-6265 *Delaware: 610-713-2406 *Montgomery: 610-278-5666 *Philadelphia: 215-685-4677. If unsure of the specific county’s ID office, call the Pennsylvania ID Customer Service line at 1-888-565-9435.The county ID office determines whether or not someone qualifies. If someone does qualify, the county provides the person/family with the Supports Coordination Organization (SCO) options available. The person/family chooses which SCO they’d like, and the SCO assigns a Supports Coordinator.

  1. How does someone change their Supports Coordinator (SC) or Supports Coordination Organization (SCO)?

People have the ability to change their SC or their SCO at any time, as long as the newly selected SCO is willing and able. Contact the SC Supervisor or SCO Director to change the SC, and contact the county ID office to change the SCO.

  1. What is a waiver?

The Intellectual Disability (ID) Waiver is a Medicaid program that pays for needed services for individuals with intellectual disabilities and/or autism. The waiver is completely needs-based and is the payer of last resort, which means all other avenues of funding must be explored and exhausted.

  1. How does someone receive a waiver?

Supports Coordinators complete the waiver application, which involves several steps including: determining what services are needed and gathering medical, functional-levels, financial, and other related information. Please keep in mind that the SC doesn’t choose who gets the waiver; the decision is made by the county Intellectual Disability office.

  1. Does everyone receive a waiver after their Supports Coordinator submits the application?

Unfortunately not. There is a waiting list, so even if someone qualifies for waiver, they may not receive it. Unlike school, which is entitlement based, the waiver system is needs-based. That means whoever needs it the most will receive one when it becomes available.

  1. What services are available through the ID waiver?

There are many services provided through the waiver, including but not limited to supported employment, transportation, nursing, community participation supports, residential, in-home & community supports, and respite. Supports Coordinators can provide more information about these and other waiver services.

  1. Are there other waivers available?

Yes, waivers are available in Pennsylvania through the Bureau of Autism Services (BAS) and Office of Long Term Living (OLTL). Contact BAS by calling 1-866-539-7689 and OLTL by calling 1-800-753-8827. Every state if different and waivers cannot transfer over state lines.

  1. Can someone have more than 1 waiver if they qualify?

People may only have 1 waiver at a time. If someone has a waiver through another service system, they can still receive Supports Coordination services if they qualify.

  1. What can someone do if they don’t have a waiver or are waiting for a waiver?

Look at possible natural supports like family, friends, or other local agencies like United Way or OVR, which provides employment services. Contacting local legislators and advocating increasing funding for ID services may also have an impact. Someone could also apply for another waiver through the Bureau of Autism Services or Office of Long Term Living.

  1. What are the options for someone with autism diagnosis?

In Pennsylvania, someone can receive services either through the Intellectual Disabilities (ID) system or the Bureau of Autism Services (BAS). Both of these options have a waiver, but the specific services differ. You can find out more by visiting, by calling BAS at 1-866-539-7689, or ID customer service line at 1-888-565-9435.

  1. What other services are available for school-age children with disabilities?

Therapeutic staff support (TSS), mobile therapist (MT), behavioral specialist consultant (BSC), home health aide, and in-school supports are usually available through Medicaid insurance or school.

More resources for Pennsylvania.