What is SDS?
The Self-Directed Services (SDS) program was initiated in 2005 by individuals and families who were deeply dissatisfied with the traditional programming Maryland’s Developmental Disabilities Administration offered to people with significant cognitive or physical challenges. Pioneering self-advocates and their families believed they could create high quality programming in their own homes and communities using the same money—or less—than DDA was giving to providers. They had two compelling arguments—cost effectiveness and human rights.
At its core, SDS is based upon the individual’s right to self-determination. No matter how severe the disability, virtually all individuals have ways of communicating their needs and desires. Some communicate in traditional ways as independent self-advocates, while many others require the assistance of people who know them well to articulate their needs and preferences. When family and friends offer such support, it is described as facilitated self-advocacy. Historically, family members have often initiated their participant’s transition to SDS, and they are usually deeply involved in SDS plan development and implementation. Without the support of committed family members it would be difficult or impossible for most individuals to access SDS.
Originally named “New Directions,” SDS frees participants from institutionalized programming and allows them to create and realize their own individualized Person-Centered Plans (PCP). SDS is based upon the common-sense principles of keeping funding as close as possible to the intended target and keeping administrative costs to a minimum. At the core of SDS is the belief that self-advocates and the families who love them —not bureaucrats and consultants—know best. New Directions originally existed as a unique and separate Waiver, but in 2014 DDA exercised its option under the CMS HCBS Final Rule to combine Self-Directed Services with the services offered by traditional providers into a single Waiver. The resulting Waiver, which combines two very different service models under the same set of regulations, is now known as the Community Pathways Waiver.