National News Spurs Changes

In the summer of 1972, the Ohio General Assembly voted to create two separate departments to handle what was once the responsibility of one state agency. The two departments that would be created are the Ohio Department of Mental Hygiene and Correction and the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation.

Under the new Department of MH/MR, policies were established to improve the conditions in Ohio’s institutions, including policies on abuse, restraint of residents, and reporting incidents involving residents. Ohio’s Developmental Disabilities Planning Council was established the same year.

Making national news during the year was a series of investigations at Willowbrook, a state institution for children with developmental disabilities in New York, which exposed overcrowding, unsanitary conditions, and physical and sexual abuse.

Willowbrook: The Last Great Disgrace, detailed the inhumane conditions endured by more than 5,300 residents, the largest institution housing people with developmental disabilities in the world. In response to the investigations, parents of the residents filed a class-action lawsuit against the state of New York. New York ARC v. Rockefeller was a turning point in the evolution of legal rights for people with developmental disabilities. The case accelerated the pace of community placements and the development of community services, as well as initiated the establishment of legal rights for children with disabilities.