In 1955, the Arkansas General Assembly created the Arkansas Children's Colony with the passage of Act 6. This act has been revised and extended by numerous statutes, the latest being Act 1165 of 1975. Act 265 of 1969 created the Arkansas Department of Mental Retardation. It also expanded the authority of the Children's Colony Board to include certain responsibilities for the individuals who, because of other disabilities, show characteristics of mental retardation.
In 1971, the Governor designated Mental Retardation/ Developmental Disabilities Services to administer the provisions of the Developmental Disabilities Services and the Facilities Construction Act, or Public Law 91-517, (as amended). This legislation expanded the responsibility of the agency to serve individuals with cerebral palsy, epilepsy, and autism.
In 1971, Act 38 transferred the Arkansas Department of Mental Retardation and its functions, powers, and duties to the Department of Social and Rehabilitative Services, which is now the Department of Human Services.
In 1981, Act 513 was passed and changed the name and official title of the agency and Board to the Division and the Board of Developmental Disabilities Services. Under this Act, the Arkansas Children's Colonies became the Human Development Centers (HDCs). There are five HDCs across the state; the first opened in 1959 at Conway, and the last opened in 1978 in Warren. The HDCs are located in Conway, Arkadelphia, Jonesboro, Booneville, and Warren. These programs provide services to 968 individuals with developmental disabilities who are in need of 24-hour residential, medical, and habilitative services.
Act 348 of 1985 authorized the reorganization of the Department of Human Services, and under this change DDS became one of 13 divisions/offices comprising an integrated services system. This Act designated control and administration of the HDCs under the management and direction of the DDS Board with daily operation authority extended to the DDS Director, in coordination with the Director of DHS.
DDS also provides an extensive range of services to individuals in community settings. These services are provided through private, not-for-profit programs whose service areas include all 75 counties of the state. There are 96 DDS Licensed Providers and 43 Early Intervention Voucher Providers. Additionally, DDS offers wrap-around services which include Medicaid Waiver, individual/family supports and adaptive equipment.
The mission of DDS is to provide a variety of supports to improve the quality of life for individuals with mental retardation, autism, epilepsy, cerebral palsy or other conditions that cause a person to function as if they have intellectual disabilities. DDS also provides services for individuals with a developmental delay, ages birth to 3 years.
The Division of Developmental Disabilities Services (DDS), the DDS Board, and its providers are dedicated to the pursuit of the following goals:
- Advocating for adequate funding, staffing, and services to address the needs of persons with developmental disabilities.
- Encouraging an interdisciplinary service system to be utilized in the delivery of appropriate individualized and quality services.
- Protecting the constitutional rights of individuals with disabilities and their rights to personal dignity, respect and freedom from harm.
- Assuring that individuals with developmental disabilities who receive services from DDS are provided uninterrupted essential services until such time a person no longer needs to depend on these services.
- Encouraging family, parent/guardian, individual, and public/community involvement in program development, delivery, and evaluation.
- Engaging in statewide planning that ensures optimal and innovative growth of the Arkansas service system to meet the needs of persons with developmental disabilities and to assist such persons to achieve independence, productivity, and integration into the community.
To accomplish it mission, DDS, the DDS Board, and its providers are committed to the principle and practices of: normalization; least restrictive alternatives; affirmation of individuals’ constitutional rights; provision of quality services; the interdisciplinary service delivery model; and the positive management of challenging behaviors.