Molly Woerhlin (Part 2)

Past President of Arc Minnesota

Visiting State Hospitals with Legislators

(Run time 1:52)

A lot of people were very uncomfortable about talking about disabilities or seeing people with disabilities, particularly at the State Hospitals, where they had the more seriously impaired.

And some people were very physically impaired and even, or especially for a parent it was very hard to see, too. But when legislators went down, and we would organize bus tours.

First we worked on the wives of the legislators, because they were in St. Paul and not at home if they came from around the state. And we had bus tours for them.

And then we worked on the key legislators themselves and had bus tours. And, you know, what they wanted to do when they went down there. Of course, they also had hearings down there eventually, because they had to deal with all the appropriations.

All the State Hospitals had farms in those days to provide food for the residents. And they used to love to go out to the barns. Of course, they were mostly farmers in those days.

And so we always had a hard time getting them to stay in the hospital and look at the residents and get involved in the programs. I can remember going to the very hospital unit at Faribault, that's where the most severely damaged people were in.

It's a difficult experience. And I saw a legislator go in, sort of take a look, and turn around and leave. Obviously it was emotionally too painful for him. And I've often thought about this.

So, what I did, I intercepted him and I began talking to him and sort of turned him around and took him back in and said, "I'd like to explain some things."

So I sort of verbally led him through there, and I've always felt, you know, he wanted to duck out, as it was painful. And I've often wondered, "Was that appropriate or not?" But we just had the feeling if you're a legislator, you've got to see it. You've got to see what it's like, because you're responsible for these people.

And it's too easy just to turn it off and not realize it. This is why the visiting program was always so terribly important.