The Minnesota Governor's Council on Developmental Disabilities
FORTY-FIVE YEARS OF HISTORY 1971-2016
This article, mainly covering 1977 – 1981, is the second of nine segments that will move the history along in five-year segments to bring the Council's work to the present. For context refer to the sections "Parallels in Time: A History of Developmental Disabilities" and "With An Eye to the Past" on this site.
The Developmental Disabilities Assistance and Bill of Rights Act (DD Act) of 1963 (also referred to as the MR Construction Act) and the 1970 reauthorization (Public Law 91-517) outlined the guidelines for the establishment of State Councils. This was the force behind subsequent legislation and programs created to ensure that people with developmental disabilities received the same protections and rights as all citizens.
Minnesota Governor's Planning Council on Developmental Disabilities (name changed in 1976)], began its work in 1971, with a focus on gaining community housing, education and employment for people who were living with family members or residing in state institutions. The steps to reach these goals were dependent on building public awareness through education and activism; building residential facilities; and developing services to support individuals through training in living and work skills in the community.
IMPACT OF WELSCH CASE:
On August 30, 1972, Richard Welsch filed a complaint in Federal court against the Minnesota Department of Public Welfare challenging the conditions, care, treatment, and training of residents in the state institutions.
Welsch's daughter was a resident at Cambridge and the complaint alleged that the poor physical conditions of the institution as well as the inadequate care and treatment of the residents failed to meet constitutional standards of due process (Interview with Eleanor Welsch: http://mn.gov/mnddc/past/videoclips/Eleanor-Welsch.html)
Judge Earl R. Larson, U.S. District Court, on February 15, 1974 held for plaintiff:
"The evidence is overwhelming and convincing that a program of habilitation can work to improve the lives of Cambridge residents … Everyone, no matter the degree or severity of [their condition], is capable of growth and development if given adequate and suitable treatment." (http://mn.gov/mnddc/past/1970s/1970s-11.html)
The case went back to court in 1980. The Welsch Consent Decree called for a decrease in the number of people in institutions by 1987 and continued improvement of conditions in regional centers. Recommendations specified in the Consent Decree included:
a. Training of state hospital staff with specific topics mentioned in the decree;
b. Consultation services to community providers;
c. Monitoring of assessment and discharge planning;
d. Technical assistance to counties and facility developers;
e. Licensure of DACs and community residential facilities;
f. Planning, development, and support of necessary legislation;
g. Determination of the future role of state hospitals including a phase out schedule for use of buildings as well as an employee protection plan including retraining. The continued roles of state hospitals should focus on outreach work, respite care, crisis intervention, and other activities
(PAS #1: Taxonomy of Issues Surrounding Implementation of the Welsch v. Noot Cconsent Decree)
All issues dealing with services and support programs for deinstitutionalization were addressed. . An index of all Welsch documents, prepared by Luther Granquist, is available at (http://mn.gov/mnddc/past/pdf/pdf-index_st-inst-welsch.html).
COMMUNITY ALTERNATIVES AND INSTITUTIONAL REFORM (CAIR):
The CAIR Task Force was formed by the Council in 1974 and staffed by Dr. Robert Bruininks, executive director of the DD Planning Office of the State Planning Agency. Bruininks was responsible for the coordination, supervision and administration of statewide planning efforts by the Council. The Task Force recommendations and Project objectives were stated in the 1975 CAIR Report as follows:
- Integrate the viewpoints of financial and program decision makers with those of the groups responsible for the implementation of programs.
- Develop a systematic plan for returning persons with developmental disabilities in state institutions to community settings based on their individual needs.
The Project focused on developing an individual centered process to determine the needs of residents in state operated facilities and service planning based on these needs. (http://mn.gov/mnddc/past/pdf/70s/75/75-SPA-APS.pdf)
LEGAL ADVOCACY PROJECT:
In 1976 the Council approved a grant proposal submitted by the Minneapolis Legal Aid Society, "…to provide comprehensive legal services and training throughout the state for persons with developmental disabilities." (NewsBriefs, April 1976)
The project funded two lawyers and two paralegals who worked on the Welsch case, a guardianship bill, a zoning bill for new group homes, and other legal issues. A connection was established with the University of Minnesota Law School and advocates received training. An updated manual, "Legal Rights of Developmental Disabled Citizens: An Advocacy Manual for Minnesota", included a guide for lay advocates, overview of rights and enforcement procedures for persons with developmental disabilities, and, "… a list of services, agencies, legal aid societies, day activity centers and state [institution] advocacy services." (NewsLetter, September 1976)
PUBLIC INFORMATION CAMPAIGN:
An early priority of the Council was focused upon improving public perceptions and attitudes about the potential and abilities of people with disabilities. Some of the initial grants were provided to support more positive public information messages about citizens with disabilities, and this support included expanded early support to several self advocacy organizations.
The Public Information Committee accumulated data by polls, workshops and discussions with interested groups and individuals, and evaluated proposals for public programs, media needs and print materials. Perhaps initially the most important task was working with others statewide and providing access to resources and training that would enable them to disseminate consistent information to the public.
The work of the campaign went hand-in-hand with the work of CAIR and the other Council activities. In late 1977, a feasibility study on public information and developmental disabilities was undertaken to evaluate how effective the work had been. The study recommended that Council members and staff should focus on existing services and the needs of individuals with developmental disabilities. The study concluded that the Council should continue to serve as a resource for the regional groups in their efforts to provide the public with information. (http://mn.gov/mnddc/learning/document/GC011.PDF)
In the second five-year span of its work, the Council continued to push forward with its mission as stated in the DD Act by funding grant programs and projects and building on the work of committees and task forces established by the Council, such as CAIR and Public Information. CAIR recommendations built the structures and training, education and support services, to provide skills that would facilitate the integration into communities for those with developmental disabilities who were leaving institutions or family homes. The work moved people closer to the DD Act goals of independence and inclusion.
The goal of the Public Information Committee was to effectively communicate change needed in public attitudes toward those with developmental disabilities.