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Overview of DDSN

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The SC Department of Disabilities and Special Needs (DDSN) was created July 3, 1993 by combining the SC Department of Mental Retardation with programs for individuals with autism. New responsibilities also were added to provide services for survivors of head and spinal cord injuries. Now DDSN provides services to people with autism; head injuries, spinal cord injuries and similar disabilities; and intellectual disability and related disabilities.

The needs of people with disabilities mirror the needs of people in the general community. People with disabilities routinely need many of the services that other state agencies provide to people without disabilities. While DDSN provides services that address disability issues, the state recognizes that people with disabilities may need the same services that all South Carolinians have a right to receive, such as educational services, medical services, mental health services, social services, public health services, housing and other services.

Additionally, people with disabilities usually have needs that go beyond the services normally provided by other state agencies. They may need unique, specialized services provided by various disability experts. The specialized disability services supplement and enhance, not replace, services provided by other agencies.

A person with disabilities receiving services from DDSN and other agencies may need help coordinating services among the agencies. Responsively, DDSN advocates on behalf of all citizens with disabilities and special needs to ensure that their needs are addressed by appropriate state, federal and local agencies. The agency works with other agencies to tailor a comprehensive and practical service plan for every person served. Each disabilities and special needs (DSN) board employs service coordinators to establish and monitor the service plan. The service coordinator arranges and combines an array of disability services in concert with services provided by other agencies. More importantly, the service coordinator also serves consumers and families as the single point of entry into the disabilities system and as a continuing contact person and advocate.


DDSN is governed by a seven-member commission appointed by the Governor with advice and consent of the Senate. A commission member is appointed from each of the six Congressional districts and one member is appointed from the state at-large. The commission is the agency's governing body and provides general policy direction and guidance.

The state director is the agency's chief executive. Appointed by the commission, the director has jurisdiction over the central administrative office as well as each of the agency's three divisions, four regional centers and all services provided through contracts with local DSN boards.

Services and Programs

Three divisions comprise the Services and Programs area: Autism, Head and Spinal Cord Injury, and Mental Retardation.

Regional Centers

Four regional residential centers provide 24-hour residential care in an Intermediate Care Facility for Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities(ICF/IID). Each regional center is managed by a facility director.

Local Disabilities and Special Needs Boards

The Disabilities and Special Needs (DSN) board, such as the Richland/Lexington DSN Board, in each county (or multiple-county cluster) serves as the single planning and case management point for all local services funded through DDSN.

The DSN board is responsible for developing a local support plan and supervising case management. Although most DSN boards deliver services directly, some arrange for specific services to be delivered by other community organizations. Just as DDSN is responsible for promoting and coordinating other state agency efforts on behalf of people with disabilities and special needs, local DSN boards are responsible for developing and coordinating services and funds from local agencies. This system permits people with disabilities and special needs to remain in their own homes or, if this is not possible, to live in a family-like setting in their communities.

For More Information

SC Department of Disabilities and Special Needs Office of Community Education, PO Box 4706, Columbia, SC 29240 (803) 737-6477 V/TTY (803) 737-6474 FAX (803) 737-6323

Telephone numbers are designated as follows: V = Standard use of a telephone; TTY = Teletypewriter used by people with hearing impairments to communicate via telephone; also referred to as TDD; FAX = Facsimile machine can be used on this telephone line. Many telephone lines have multiple uses.

DDSN and its service delivery system do not discriminate in any way in the delivery of services or the employment of qualified people.

*Information gathered from

Richland/Lexington Disabilities and Special Needs Board
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