Chapter 688 Referrals

There are two methods by which students may be referred to adult agencies: direct or self-referral; and the Chapter 688 referral process.

Massachusetts Chapter 688 stipulates that a student receiving special education, who because of the severity of his or her impairment may require continued disability-related services upon exiting school, shall be offered specific, coordinated transition planning. As such, the statute establishes the Bureau of Transitional Planning (BTP). The primary function of the BTP is to insure that for all students referred under Chapter 688, formal transition planning occurs. See DESE’s brochure: A Guide to Chapter 688 or Chapter 688 website for more information about this process.

Chapter 688 referrals can be made to the Department of Developmental Disabilities (DDS), the Department of Mental Health (DMH), the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission (MRC), the Massachusetts Commission for the Blind (MCB)or the Massachusetts Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (MCDHH). In the event it cannot be clearly determined which agency is appropriate, the 688 referral packet is sent to the Bureau of Transitional Planning.

Who is Eligible for a 688 Referral?

All students  referred through Chapter 688 must be:

  1. Receiving special education services in Massachusetts paid for by the school district (LEA);
  2. In need of continuing services because of the severity of their disability; and
  3. Unable to work 20 or more hours per week in competitive employment.

Students automatically eligible for a 688 include:

  • Anyone receiving SSI and/or SSDI based on his/her own disability; or
  • Anyone listed in the registry of the Massachusetts Commission for the Blind.

Also, students who receive services from the Department of Youth Services (DYS) or the Department of Children & Families (DCF) and are on an IEP or a 504 Plan may be eligible.

Refer to DESE’s Chapter 688 Guidelines for Referral for more information about best fit referral agencies.

If a student does not meet criteria for a 688 referral, then the need for a direct referral to an agency should be discussed by the team. For example, some students may be a good fit for a direct referral to MRC, because they would not be eligible for a 688 referral based on the criteria.

How to Make a 688 Referral

Only school systems can refer students that they believe may be eligible for adult services through Chapter 688. A 688 referral discussion should occur at the IEP Team meeting at least two years before the student is expected to graduate or turn 22, as part of transition planning.

A referral must be made at least 2 years before the student is expected to exit school. This 2 year planning period allows enough time for the agency to determine eligibility for adult services and to include the anticipated cost of services for the student in the budget request which is submitted to the Massachusetts Legislature each year.

The 688 referral form must be signed by the parent, legal guardian, or by the young adult who is 18 or older. To make the referral, the school district must ask the parent, young adult, or guardian to sign the consent in order to send school records to the appropriate local human services agency (DDS, DMH, MRC, DCF, etc.), generally selected based upon the most reasonable match between the student’s disability support needs and the agency’s area of expertise. The human services agency must then develop an Individual Transition Plan (ITP) with the family, young adult and school system personnel. ​