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‘Inequities in State Aid for the Mentally Ill’

This is in response to your article (May 19), “Parents’ Groups Decry Inequities in State Aid for the Mentally Ill and the Retarded.”

The Assn. for Retarded Citizens-California represents thousands of Californians with develop mental disabilities. In that article, referenced above, the system that serves them suffers by comparison. Ironically, that system is promoted as the model to which the mental health system should aspire. Such a comparison, while intended as an accolade for the developmental service system, actually commits a grave injustice against persons with developmental disabilities.

Mental retardation is not mental illness. The causes are different, the needs are different, the lifelong projections are different. To compare them is a disservice to both populations. Mental retardation is manifested prior to age 18 and constitutes a lifelong learning impairment. A person with mental retardation, unlike a person with a mental illness, can never he “cured,” but with appropriate training and support, often from birth to death, can adapt to the community.

As glorious as the article makes it appear, the developmental service system is only beginning to meet the needs of persons with developmental disabilities. While we agree that residential rates for the mentally ill are sorely insufficient, the article does not recognize that residential rates for persons with developmental abilities are not much better. The $945 rate that is mentioned in the article is far from the norm; in fact, it only represents 3% of the population, those who reside in facilities of over 50 persons and whose disabilities are so severe that intensive supervision is required. Actually, more than 50% of all persons residing out of home are supported within a range of $596-$782 per month.

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The Assn. for Retarded Citizens-California echoes the concerns raised about the mental health system and, because of the large numbers of persons with developmental disabilities who also have a mental illness, we are committed to supporting the mental health advocates in their efforts to improve the system. However, one system does not rely on the other, and neither should be improved at the expense of the other. We advise the mental health advocates and friends that if your goal is the top of the ladder, do not settle for the next rung.

LORE RADISCH

Sacramento

Radisch is president of the Assn. for Retarded Citizens-California.

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