The Lanterman Act declares that persons with developmental disabilities have the same legal rights and responsibilities guaranteed all other persons by federal and state constitutions and laws, and charges the regional center with advocacy for, and protection of, these rights.
In addition to persons with mental retardation, the regional centers are now mandated to serve persons with cerebral palsy, epilepsy, autism, conditions similar to mental retardation, or conditions that require treatment similar to the treatment required for individuals with mental retardation. In 1976, the Lanterman Act was amended to establish the right to treatment and habilitation services for persons with developmental disabilities.
The Lanterman Act protects the rights of people with developmental disabilities by mandating rights including:
Section 4501: "The State of California accepts a responsibility for persons with developmental disabilities and an obligation to them which it must discharge. Affecting hundreds of thousands of children and adults directly, and having an important impact on the lives of their families, neighbors and whole communities, developmental disabilities present social, medical, economic and legal problems of extreme importance."
Section 4620: "In order for the state to carry out many of its responsibilities as established in this division, the state shall contract with appropriate agencies to provide fixed points of contact in the community for persons with developmental disabilities and their families, to the end that such persons may have access to the facilities and services best suited to them throughout their lifetime. It is the intent of this division that the network of regional centers for persons with developmental disabilities and their families be accessible to every family in need of regional center services. The Legislature finds that the services provided to individuals and their families by regional centers is of such a special and unique nature that is cannot be satisfactorily provided by state agencies. Therefore, private nonprofit community agencies shall be utilized by the state for the purpose of operating regional centers."