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Mental Retardation and Community Mental Health Centers Construction Act – Federal Law

In 1963, upon Kennedy’s urging, Congress would pass the Maternal and Child Health and Mental Retardation Planning Amendments, which would created funding for both services for children with disabilities and grants to “plan for and take other steps leading to comprehensive State and community action to combat mental retardation”. That same year, Congress would pass the Mental Retardation and Community Mental Health Centers Construction Act of 1963, providing funding for services in the community for people with developmental disabilities, as well as research, diagnostic clinics, and more funding for special education teachers. This Act established what were then known as University Affiliated Facilities to perform research and administrate the diagnostic clinics – today these are known as University Centers for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (UCEDDs), in Maine, the Center for Community Inclusion and Disability Studies at the University of Maine. The law also created Mental Retardation Facilities Advisory Councils, in charge of supervising the money received from Federal aid and granted to organizations for projects – the forebear to State Developmental Disabilities Councils. 

These landmark bills would be the first to give states federal funding to provide services for people with developmental disabilities, and with the inclusion of provisions for community-based care, pointed the way towards a new paradigm.

Newspaper clipping from the Lewiston Daily Sun, June 20, 1966 – Headline: Mentally Retarded Plan is Completed Record Sales
Lewiston Daily Sun, June 20, 1966

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From the beginning of the institutional period, the cost of providing care for people with developmental disabilities was both the reason for building larger and larger congregate settings and an excuse for any evidence of neglect or poor treatment that came to light.

Throughout the history of Pineland you can see the frequent requests for more funding.  When Pineland was closed a new pool of money was flooded into the community.  This followed a series of cuts and the same types of pleas for additional funds that can be seen through the institutional period.

To this day, disagreements over the amount of funding put towards services plague this system. Reimbursement rates and workers’ paychecks, infrastructure and innovative care – the question of “how do we pay for this?” hangs over all the decisions made.