Environmental Modifications


Through the Home and Community Based Waiver (HCBS), New York State OPWDD provides funds to construct adaptations to homes which can increase or maintain an individual’s ability to live at home with independence. These Environmental Modifications (or E-Mods) can include such projects as the construction of ramps, lifts, hand rails, bathroom modifications (such as roll-in showers). The waiver may also pay for van modifications. Additions that address an individual’s sensory deficits, such as Braille identification systems and strobe light smoke detectors and alarm devices may also be considered. Alterations that promote a safer environment for individuals with challenging behaviors, including window protection, reinforcement of walls, open-door signal devices and durable wall finishes are also available.

Catholic Charities Disabilities Services (CCDS) contracts with OPWDD to secure contractors and manage the construction of these projects in its 14 county catchment area. As you might guess, there are a number of checks and reviews that must take place before the state will spend Medicaid dollars on construction projects for private homes.


Information for Families:

A typical E-Mod project requires the following steps and takes a year or more for approval and construction:

  • Through the Care Manager, the individual and family request an E-Mod from the DDRO. The DDRO reviews the request and, if appropriate, provides “conceptual approval” for the E-Mod.
  • Once conceptual approval has been received, the MSC notifies CCDS and the E-Mod coordinator from our agency contacts the family and MSC to set up an appointment to visit the home and discuss the project. Following this visit the E-Mod coordinator will develop a “scope of work” for the project. The scope of work is approved by the family before any further action is taken.
  • Once the scope of work has been approved, it is sent by CCDS to at least three pre-selected contractors who may choose to bid on the project. During this step, the contractor may request a walk through of the home. Contractors will be allowed at least 30 days to prepare bids. Bids are opened and tallied and the bids and scope of work are returned to the MSC.
  • The MSC submits the paperwork to the DDRO which reviews the scope of work and the bids. If the package passes muster at the local level, the bids and scope of work are sent to OPWDD’s Central Office for review. If this review is successful, the package is sent to the Division of the Budget (DOB) for its review.
  • If the project successfully passes the three reviews in step 4, the DDRO issues a preliminary contract to CCDS. We review the proposed contract, sign it, and return it to the DDRO.
  • The preliminary contract is again reviewed by the DDRO, Central Office and DOB. Once this is completed, we are then issued a contract and funds are awarded. The bid will be awarded by us to the vendor who submitted the lowest responsible bid. If the vendor decides to accept the job, the vendor will then have six months to complete the project.
  • When the vendor is ready to start work, the vendor will request start up money. At this point, the vendor agrees to complete the work within 90 days.
  • During construction, the E-Mod coordinator will make one or more visits to the home to ensure that the job is being appropriately done. When complete, the family will be asked to sign off on the project, indicating that they are satisfied with the work. Once the sign off is received, the vendor will receive final payment.

Information for Vendors:

CCDS is continually recruiting vendors, especially Minority or Women Owned Businesses (MWBE) to do E-Mods. If you are a building contractor and may be interested in submitting bids for E-Mod work, please submit a letter describing your business, your experience in doing typical E-Mods (ramps, fences, bathroom modifications, van alterations, etc) and three letters of reference from customers.


If you are an individual, family member, Care Manager, or potential vendor and have questions, please contact Bill Wheeler, EMOD Coordinator