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					                                   BEFORE THE
                       OFFICE OF ADMINISTRATIVE HEARINGS
                               STATE OF CALIFORNIA


In the Matter of:

RAMONA C.,
                                                    OAH No. N 2005090610
                            Claimant,

vs.

REDWOOD COAST REGIONAL
CENTER,

                            Service Agency.



                                        DECISION

       This matter was heard before Michael C. Cohn, Administrative Law Judge, State of
California, Office of Administrative Hearings, via a telephone conference call on December
28, 2005.

       Claimant represented herself.

       Brian Nash, Consumer Services Manager, represented the service agency.

       The matter was submitted for decision on December 28, 2005.

                                           ISSUE

       The issue is whether claimant is eligible for services under the Lanterman Act either
because she is mentally retarded, or because she has a condition that is closely related to
mental retardation or that requires treatment similar to that required for individuals with
mental retardation.

                                   FACTUAL FINDINGS

       1.      Claimant is 46 years old. She sought assistance from the service agency at the
urging of her boyfriend. Claimant believes she has developmental problems that cause her to
have memory problems, to be unable to focus or process information well, and that make it
hard for her to learn.

                                              1
        2.     The service agency referred claimant to licensed psychologist Ted R. Ruggles,
Ph.D., for a psychological evaluation. In August 2005, Dr. Ruggles interviewed claimant
and administered the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale-III. That test produced a
performance IQ score of 73 and verbal and full-scale IQ scores of 66. Although claimant’s
full-scale IQ score falls within the mentally retarded range, Dr. Ruggles concluded that this
was not an appropriate diagnosis for claimant for two reasons. First, he concluded that
claimant’s history of amphetamine abuse had likely resulted in a decrease in cognitive ability
since age 18, and that it was therefore likely her scores prior to that age would have been in
the “borderline” range. Second, Dr. Ruggles concluded that claimant’s adaptive
functioning—which showed “adaptive independence” during earlier periods of her life—was
above the level generally associated with mental retardation.

              Dr. Ruggles made Axis I diagnoses of mood disorder not otherwise specified
and learning disorder not otherwise specified. He made no Axis II diagnosis.

        3.      The service agency notified claimant on September 13, 2005, that its eligibility
team had determined she was not eligible for regional center services because she did not
have a qualifying developmental disability. In reaching this decision, the team relied upon
Dr. Ruggles’ evaluation, mental health records, and developmental information claimant had
provided. The team noted Dr. Ruggles’ conclusion that claimant’s depressed IQ scores were
attributable to amphetamine abuse and psychiatric difficulties. The team stated, “We do not
have enough evidence to show that your depressed cognitive (thinking and reasoning) skills
had an onset prior to age 18.”

       4.     Claimant appealed the service agency’s determination on September 15, 2005,
and requested a fair hearing.

        5.      Virtually no evidence was presented showing claimant’s cognitive and
adaptive abilities prior to age 18. Claimant had reported to Dr. Ruggles that her family had a
history of alcohol and drug abuse; that she was aggressive as a child, often hitting or biting
her siblings or fighting with children in school; that she began taking psychoactive
medication early in grade school and was routinely seen by psychiatrists in her adolescence;
that she had difficulty keeping up with academic subjects and was placed in a special
education classroom when she entered junior high school; that she began abusing alcohol
after her mother’s death, when claimant was 16 and in the 10th grade. Other than claimant’s
recollections, the only evidence regarding this period of her life was a “permanent record”
from Eureka Senior High School showing that claimant received grades between D and F in
the ninth grade and all F’s in the 10th grade. Claimant dropped out of school in the 10th
grade, got married, and had her first child. She has essentially lived independently ever since
then.

      6.      Claimant testified that when she was in school she “didn’t know how to do the
work,” so “hid” from school. She was placed in special education, where she was able to do
cooking. She has had only a few jobs in her life; after leaving high school she worked

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seasonally in a fishery, but left when she got pregnant. She has not had any paying jobs for
the last 10 to 15 years, although she did volunteer at “St. Vincent’s,” where she washed
dishes.

        7.      Claimant has held a driver’s license for most of her life. She has taken long
driving trips, including from Eureka to San Francisco. Claimant allowed her license to
expire a few years ago; she says she could not drive while on drugs. She recently applied for
a new driver’s license. She testified she was given a temporary license only because she
cannot pass the test; she does not know how to pass the test. Claimant testified she had been
able to pass the driver’s license test in the past.

        8.    Claimant used drugs (methamphetamine and cocaine) until about a year ago.
She has been clean and sober since February 2005. Since that time she has lived in a sober
living environment run by “Serenity Bookstore.” She attends Narcotics Anonymous
meetings daily, and she and her boyfriend intend to attend more NA meetings.

       9.      Claimant receives services from the Mental Health Branch of the Humboldt
County Department of Health and Human Services. The most recent Mental Health Branch
records (March 2005) show an Axis I diagnosis of amphetamine induced mood disorder, rule
out bipolar disorder, rule out attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and an Axis II diagnosis
of personality disorder not otherwise specified. She takes a number of medications,
including Neurontin and Klonopin.

        10.     Since September 2005, claimant has been attending College of the Redwoods,
“to see if [she] can learn.” In the fall semester she took English and College Skills. She
dropped the English class because she “couldn’t do it.” She receives special tutoring and
assistance at the school’s Life Center. In the coming semester, claimant intends to again try
English. She is also taking a gym class and will receive services from the Life Center.

       11.   Claimant has received SSI benefits for more than 20 years. The basis for these
payments was not established. Claimant’s checks go to a payee, who then gives claimant a
fixed amount of spending money each week. Claimant manages the money she is given.
She goes grocery shopping and buys food to prepare. She is able to cook full meals. She
recently made a full turkey dinner for Christmas.

                                      LEGAL CONCLUSIONS

        1.     Under the Lanterman Developmental Disabilities Services Act,1 the State of
California accepts responsibility for persons with developmental disabilities.2 As defined in
the act, a developmental disability is a disability that originates before age 18, that continues

       1
           Welfare and Institutions Code section 4500 et seq.
       2
           Welfare and Institutions Code section 4501.



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or is expected to continue indefinitely, that constitutes a substantial disability for the
individual, and that is attributable to mental retardation, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, autism or
what is commonly known as the “fifth category”: “disabling conditions found to be closely
related to mental retardation or to require treatment similar to that required for mentally
retarded individuals.”3

        2.     A diagnosis of mental retardation requires, among other things, a finding that
the individual has significantly subaverage intellectual functioning, i.e., an IQ of
approximately 70 or below, with an onset before age 18.4 No evidence was presented of any
IQ testing before claimant reached 18. While the test recently administered by Dr. Ruggles
did produce a score in the mentally retarded range, claimant was 45 years old at the time.
Dr. Ruggles concluded that claimant’s many years of amphetamine abuse (more than 20
years of drug abuse up until February 2005) had likely resulted in a decrease in cognitive
ability since age 18, and that scores prior to that age probably would have been above the
diagnostic level of 70. Considering that, as well as evidence of a level of adaptive
functioning greater than that typically found in mentally retarded individuals—i.e., the ability
to live independently, to manage money, to pass driving tests and hold a driver’s license, to
do grocery shopping, and to prepare multi-course meals—it cannot be found that claimant
meets the requirements for a diagnosis of mental retardation.

        3.      Under the fifth category, a condition must be closely related to mental
retardation, or it must require treatment similar to that required for mentally retarded
individuals. The court in Mason v. Office of Administrative Hearings (Inland Regional
Center), held that, “[t]he fifth category condition must be very similar to mental retardation,
with many of the same, or close to the same, factors required in classifying a person as
mentally retarded.” 5 For the reasons stated in Legal Conclusion 2, it was not established that
claimant has a condition closely enough related to mental retardation to create eligibility.
Nor was it established that claimant has a condition that requires treatment similar to that
required by mentally retarded individuals. And even if such a condition could presently be
found, there is no evidence to show that the condition originated prior to age 18, another
element of eligibility. It must therefore be found that claimant does not meet the standards
for eligibility under the fifth category.

       4.      While claimant might well benefit from some of the services provided by the
service agency, that fact alone is insufficient to find her eligible under the Lanterman Act.
Because claimant fails to qualify for services due to mental retardation or under the fifth
category, she is not entitled to receive such services.

       3
           Welfare and Institutions Code section 4512, subdivision (a).
       4
           Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, Text Revision, p. 49.
       5
          Mason v. Office of Administrative Hearings (Inland Regional Center) (2001) 89 Cal.App.4th
1119, 1130.



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                                           ORDER

      Claimant’s appeal of the service agency’s denial of eligibility for services under the
Lanterman Act is denied. She is not eligible for regional center services.

                                          NOTICE

       This is the final administrative decision; both parties are bound by this decision.
Either party may appeal this decision to a court of competent jurisdiction within 90 days.



DATED: _________________________



                                           _______________________________________
                                           MICHAEL C. COHN
                                           Administrative Law Judge
                                           Office of Administrative Hearings




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