Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Governor Blunt Speaks Up On Name Change

A must read:

Taking hurtful word off agency’s name right thing to do

For years, parents and advocates have spoken about the need to remove the term "mental retardation" from the Division of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities. They spoke of the insensitive and hurtful references that people make by using terms like "retard" and "retarded." We listened to them and took action.

Earlier this month, I signed an executive order removing the term "mental retardation" from the state agency’s name that is responsible for ensuring that support and services are available for Missourians with developmental disabilities, including those with intellectual disabilities. With this change, the division name is now the Division of Developmental Disabilities.

This name change will not affect the services that Missourians and their families now receive. It will not diminish the mission of the division. And this action will not reduce, change or affect the funding and support that is administered by the division.

The reasons for the executive order are very simple: The use of the term "mental retardation" in the name of the division is counterproductive to the division’s statutory obligation to reduce the stigma of having a developmental disability. Despite its clinical origins, the term "mental retardation" has a different and often derogatory meaning in popular culture.

Like many Missourians, advocates and parents of children with significant disabilities are rightly sensitive to the modern use of the word "retardation." It has become a slang term that is used in a demeaning manner by many. Inappropriate use of the word perpetuates negative stereotypes and causes a deep hurt to those with developmental disabilities and their families.

The action we have taken is not unprecedented. There are only six states that still use the term "mental retardation" in their state agency names. In fact, within the past 18 months, five states, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia, as well as the District of Columbia have removed the term from their state agency names. In 2003, President George W. Bush renamed "The President’s Committee on Mental Retardation" to the "President’s Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities." Private and not-for-profit organizations have made similar changes as well. This includes the Special Olympics, which serves more than 2 million people who have been diagnosed with mental retardation and The Arc of the United States, the oldest and largest parent support and advocacy group for people with developmental disabilities. They removed the term "retarded" from their name in 1992.

Additionally, the American Association of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, a 130-year-old association representing developmental disability professionals worldwide, removed the reference to mental retardation in their name in response to widespread, nearly universal support among self-advocates.

I am grateful to the members of the General Assembly who have supported this name change, as well as the employees of the Division of Developmental Disabilities, who provide outstanding service to Missourians. I want to thank the numerous organizations and Missourians with developmental disabilities and their family members who advocated for this name change. This change will have a positive affect on Missourians with developmental disabilities, their families and the Department of Mental Health.

Source:
http://www.columbiatribune.com/2008/Oct/20081029Comm003.asp

After Note: I am not affiliated with any political party nor care to be as I vote on issues and not party lines but with Matt Blunt doing the right thing there just might be some hope for the Republican Party after all if some of Matt Blunt's charity might rub off.

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