The Division of Developmental Disability and the NJ-CAT

The Division of Developmental Disability’s (“DDD”) mission is to assure the opportunity for individuals with developmental disabilities to receive quality services and supports, participate meaningfully in their communities and exercise their right to make choices. DDD provides and funds services to qualified individuals. Services are available for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities, provided the individual meets the functional criteria of having a developmental disability.

What are the Criteria the State uses to determine developmental disability?

The New Jersey Administrative Code sets forth definitions and criteria. It provides:

“Developmental disability” means a severe, chronic disability of an individual, which:

  1. Is attributable to a mental or physical impairment or combination of mental or physical impairments;
  2. Is manifest before age 22;
  3. Is likely to continue indefinitely;
  4. Results in substantial functional limitations in three or more of the following areas of major activities of daily living:
  5. Self-care;
  6. Receptive and expressive language;

III. Learning;

  1. Mobility;
  2. Self-direction;
  3. Capacity for independent living; and

VII. Economic self-sufficiency; and

  1. Reflects the need for a combination and sequence of special interdisciplinary or generic care, treatment, or other services, which are of lifelong or extended duration and are individually planned and coordinated. Developmental disability includes, but is not limited to, severe disabilities attributable to intellectual disability, autism, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, spina bifida, and other neurological impairments where the above criteria are met. N.J.A.C. 10:46.


In addition to meeting the above criteria, any individual seeking to receive services through DDD must also apply, become eligible for and maintain Medicaid eligibility, and have primary residency in New Jersey. At 18 years of age individuals may apply for eligibility and must be 21 to receive Division services.

What services does DDD provide?

DDD funded services are offered under a fee-for-service model. Under this model, adults will be determined eligible for either the Supports Program or the Community Care Waiver Program. The Supports Program provides services such as assistive technology, behavior supports, career planning, prevocational therapy, supported employment, transportation and day habilitation, to name just a few. The Community Care Waiver provides case management, community transition services, day habilitation, individual supports, respite services, and residential placements.

What about residential services?

Should the need for residential placement arise, a case manager or Support Coordinator can explore residential options with the individual and his family. Among the options that may be offered to an eligible person are Group Homes, in which a home is shared with no more than four residents who receive services from on-site 24 hour a day staff; Supervised Apartments, in which an individual lives alone or with a roommate in an apartment leased by a provider agency, which employs staff available to serve the individuals 24 hours a day; Supportive Housing, in which an individual leases his own apartment and receives services on an as-needed basis either in person or through phone contact, 24/7; and Community Care Residence, in which an individual lives as part of the family of a caretaker and receives assistance from that person and/or from an agency on a routine basis.

What is the NJ-CAT?

The New Jersey Comprehensive Assessment Tool, (NJ-CAT) is the mandatory questionnaire used by DDD as part of the process of determining an individual’s eligibility to receive DDD funded services. It assesses a person’s support needs in three main areas; self-care, behavioral and medical. Once the NJ-CAT is submitted, DDD assigns a Tier and a corresponding budget.

Before completing the NJ-CAT, keep in mind that the questionnaire will determine your loved one’s budget and it is therefore crucial that care be taken to answer each question keeping in mind what your loved one can do without your assistance, not with your help and support.

Can I ever appeal the Budget?

Appealing the budget assigned after the NJ-CAT is submitted is difficult, but can be done. DDD is very specific about the way one must proceed if they want to request reassessment of the budget. For this reason, it is suggested that you consult with someone knowledgeable about how to answer the NJ-CAT before you sit down to fill it out. If, however, you have already submitted it, or it was done by a support coordinator on your loved one’s behalf, go to the DDD website and read about requesting reassessment.

This article is intended as general information and not as legal advice. If you are applying for DDD services and will be completing the NJ-CAT, or if you would like to appeal the budget already assigned, contact an attorney at Maselli Warren, P.C. to schedule a consultation.