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Supported Decision-Making New York and ADAPT Help Grow Individuals’ Independence

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Promoting independence and autonomy in individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities and providing the tools and supports needed to help people obtain their goals is something ADAPT does every day. ADAPT has had a long-time relationship with Supported Decision-Making New York (SDMNY). For over 5 years ADAPT has supported efforts to help individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities make their own decisions with support from trusted people in their lives.

ADAPT was one of several agencies across New York state that has partnered with SDMNY for a 3 year grant starting in 2023, as part of a pilot program with OPWDD to create a process of supported decision making as an alternative to guardianship. Guardianship is the legal means by which a person’s right to make their own decisions is taken away and given to their legal guardian thus, taking away rights and independence from people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). Historically once people with intellectual and developmental disabilities reached 18-years-old their families would be told to apply for guardianship with the Surrogate Court, and guardianship was granted in most cases.

Supported Decision-Making has now been recognized as a preferrable way for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities to avoid the necessity of guardianship by creating a process where they identify trusted supporters in their life, usually family members or friends, who they can turn to when making important decisions.  They create a written agreement that describes the areas in which the person with IDD (the “Decision Maker”) desires support, the type of support they would like from the “Supporter”, and how they want to receive support from them.

Karen Liebman, Coordinator of Operations, volunteered as a “Facilitator” for SDMNY. She became involved with SDMNY over 5 years ago after learning about it at the Developmental Disabilities Regional Office (DDRO) Resource Fair and volunteered to support their efforts. The Facilitator works with the Decision Maker and Supporters to draft the SDMA. She went through training to develop the skills needed to guide Decision Makers and Supporters through the process.

After completing the 5 year pilot project SDMNY was awarded a 3-year grant from the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD). The purpose of the grant is to create a replicable model that could be used throughout New York State and administered through OPWDD. ADAPT is one of the partners working with SDMNY in their Agency Partnership Pilot. As a provider agency, ADAPT’s staff, Carol Lincoln, Melissa Wilcox and Karen Liebman act as Facilitators to help guide Decision Makers and Supporters to create agreements.

Several of the individuals we support at ADAPT have a Supported Decision-Making Agreement in place. in July 2022, Governor Hochul signed the Supported Decision-Making Act, which recognizes supported decision-making as a less restrictive alternative that courts should consider before imposing guardianship.

Liebman stated, “People with intellectual and developmental disabilities feel more empowered and parents and family members feel comforted knowing there is a plan in place for when important decisions come up.”  

Gerald Johnson (Gerald lives in our 131st St IRA and attends the 154th day program) has a supported decision-making agreement and says that it “helps me make my own decisions,” feel “more independent,” and gives him a “sense of security” to know that he has trusted supporters to turn to when he needs or wants to.  He also is a big self-advocate and wants to be a role model to share information about SDM as he thinks “everyone should have one.”



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