SDMNY has developed a model to facilitate persons with intellectual disabilities to identify areas in which they need support, trusted persons whom they choose to support them, and the ways in which support will be given. Working with the person with intellectual disabilities (who we call “the decision-maker”) and her/his chosen supporters, a trained facilitator assists them in creating a Supported Decision-Making Agreement (SDMA) which reflects the terms of their agreement.

The SDMNY model is being offered to individuals with intellectual disabilities and their families as an alternative to guardianship. It offers empowerment to the person with intellectual disabilities and encourages relationships of support in decision-making on important life areas such as health care, finances, housing and relationships. The SDMA is a fluid and written document that outlines for each person who the decision-maker has chosen to support them in making decisions, what those areas the person would like support with, and how that support is given. Supported decision-making allows the person with intellectual disability to retain their full rights as a citizen (in contrast to guardianship) and promotes growth and learning as it is experienced by other neuro-typical adults.

SDMNY offers two pathways towards supported decision-making. One pathway is a diversion from guardianship for transition age youth turning 18 or for adults who do not currently have a legally assigned guardian. The second pathway is restoration for adults with a court-appointed guardian who seek to have guardianship removed and their civil rights restored.

Although supported decision-making is not currently recognized under New York state law for dealing with third parties such as healthcare providers, financial institutions, etc., there is a movement toward legislation that would require third parties to accept SDMAs as they would a Power of Attorney. Such legislation exists in Texas and Delaware and a number of other states are actively considering it.

Service Providers who are interested in providing education on supported decision-making to the people they serve and who may want to train facilitators to help develop SDMAs for people with intellectual disabilities in their area are encouraged to contact SDMNY to find out more information and to arrange a meeting.