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MR 67: A First Report To The President On The Nation's Progress And Remaining Great Needs In The Campaign To Combat Mental Retardation

Creator:  President's Committee on Mental Retardation (authors)
Date: 1967
Publisher: U.S. Government Printing Office
Source: Available at selected libraries
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President Committee on Mental Retardation
Washington, D.C. 20201


JUN 30, 1967


Dear Mr. President:


I have the honor to transmit the first report of the President's Committee on Mental Retardation.


During its first year, the Committee has charted the progress made in our nationwide effort to combat mental retardation and identified directions in which that effort must move in the immediate future in order to maintain its momentum and accomplishment.


This report will be followed by papers describing in detail the state of various aspects of mental retardation programming, and identifying trends and areas in which needs exist and further study is indicated.


The Committee's widely representative citizen membership enabled it to draw upon the information, experience and resource support of government and private organizations in charting fresh approaches to mental retardation needs.


The Committee is deeply grateful for your continuing interest, encouragement and guidance.


Respectfully yours,
John W. Gardner


The President
The White House
Washington, D. C.




THIS is a report about six million special Americans for whom -- and for whose families -- our national accomplishment has been great.. . and far too little.


THE six million are the nation's mentally retarded. They are as many as the combined populations of Maine, Oregon, Mississippi, North Dakota, and Wyoming. They are as many people as live in Los Angeles and Chicago together. Their number would make 12 Indianapolises, 24 Wichitas, 48 Winston-Salems.


THESE special Americans are people who are limited in what they can do and understand and achieve.


THEY are slower to learn than most. They have greater difficulty in coping with swift change and life's growing complexity.


BUT they are not helpless or hopeless.


LIFE for them has taken on new promise since Congress, responding to popular and professional call, passed major legislation in their behalf not quite four years ago. Over $400 million a year is now appropriated for federal programs benefiting the retarded. More than twice that amount is spent each year by the states, localities, and private citizen organizations. The result has been an extraordinary growth in the services which the mentally retarded and their families may call upon.




AMONG the major needs still facing us are:


o Half of the nation's 25,000 school districts offer no classes for pupils having special learning problems and needs. Many of the existing special education classes do not offer retarded students opportunity to learn and achieve to their full capacity.


o Three-quarters of the nation's 201,000 institutionalized mentally retarded live in buildings 50 years old or more -- many of them "hand-me-down" mental or tuberculosis hospitals or abandoned military installations.


o The 81,000 full-time staff in public facilities for the mentally retarded must be almost doubled to reach minimum adequacy.


o The mentally retarded in disadvantaged neighborhoods often receive significantly less service from public and private agencies than do the retarded living in other neighborhoods.


o An estimated 2 million retarded persons capable of learning to support themselves need job training and placement services. Even at minimum wage, these individuals have a potential annual earning capacity of $6 billion.


o The cause of three in every four cases of mental retardation remains unknown.


OUR PROSPEROUS, OUTREACHING AMERICA MUST CONCERN ITSELF with this group of its least able citizens for practical as well as idealistic reasons.


FIRST, we have learned that problems ignored or neglected do not go away. On the contrary, they grow, both in urgency and cost, until at last we are forced to contend with them, often at enormous expense for measures that can only hold the line.


WE are confident that the causes of mental retardation will be found. Some already have been discovered. When we know more about the causes, we will be able to make significant advances in prevention of retardation.


AND we have learned that the clear-eyed compassion which helps the weak become stronger, the less able to achieve to their full ability, the dependent to become self-reliant is a necessity for people who have important work to do in the world. We Americans are such a people.


FOR the retarded and for ourselves we must continue and improve on the splendid beginnings that we as citizens of a great nation have made in meeting the national problem of mental retardation.


IT IS NEARLY FIVE YEARS SINCE a panel of the nation's leading authorities on mental retardation, appointed by President John F. Kennedy, made the first thorough survey of what was being done for the retarded and what needed to be done. It is now time to assess what has been accomplished since then and to set new goals.


The 1961-62 President's Panel on Mental Retardation made 95 action recommendations that sought progress in four critical areas. The nation, said the panel, could make significant progress against the problem of mental retardation if:

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