The Developmental Disabilities Assistance
and Bill of Rights Act (DD Act)
Allan Bergman on the DD Act
Q4: What was the purpose and intent of the DD Act of 1970?
The purpose of the DD Act of 1970 was, again, to build on the 1963 Mental Retardation Act, but what it did was take what was a small planning grant and actually created what we know today as the Councils on Developmental Disabilities. These were planning and advisory councils to the governor to begin to look at systems, to begin to look at what are the resources, and one of their charges was to look at the effective and efficient use of public resources across education, social, and human services in the states. So, that was a major new initiative. I'm not sure prior to that we had had anything like it.
Since then, there have been things like that for older Americans and other populations. But this was really a broadside, comprehensive attempt to look at an unserved, underserved population of people with developmental disabilities and begin to say, "What's going on in the states, in the community?" Not that the institutions weren't going to continue for a while, but people sort of knew what that was, but outside of there, what‘s going on, what needs to be done at the state level?
The university programs were really pushed to begin to do some research and to begin to do some staff development and training because, again, as I think the Kennedy family had experienced, you can have all the money in the world, if there are not competent, trained clinicians, diagnosticians, special educators, rehab practitioners – go down the list of the professional disciplines for whom this needed to become a subspecialty – then, in fact, you can't buy appropriate services because they don't exist.
The university part of the program was really beginning to develop some research and some training capacity so that as the community system would begin to grow, there would be staff who would know how to assist, how to support, how to train, how to educate these kids and these adults that there wasn't a body of literature on. So that was a very critical piece of the legislation – comprehensive planning, advisory to the governor, looking at all the public monies that were being used across systems, building capacity over here within the universities to begin to train the next cadre of professionals so that we had some people who could work with this population and work with them well.
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