Sunday, August 17, 2008

Ohio continues to mull dropping MR from names

From The Cleveland Plain Dealer:

Agencies across Ohio with the term "mental retardation" in their name are at a crossroads: Do they change their name and reflect a national trend by dropping the words "mental retardation," or do they keep the term because the public, and especially voters, is familiar with it?

The issue gained attention last week when advocates for the developmentally disabled protested the opening of the action-comedy movie "Tropic Thunder" for repeatedly using what they called "the R word."

While 43 states have dropped the phrase, Ohio's state agency, the Department of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities, remains committed to using it.
But 10 of the 88 Ohio county agencies have unofficially changed their names and now call themselves simply boards of developmental disabilities.

A debate has been going on behind the scenes among county agencies in Ohio for more than a year.

"One of the arguments against changing our name is, 'Will people who support those levies understand what we're asking for if we don't have the understandable name on the ballot?' " said Lon Mitchell, director of public affairs for the Lucas County Board of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities.

Mitchell said those pushing for change must remember that Ohio is one of only a few states in which individual county boards raise money through property taxes to pay for and provide services to the developmentally disabled.

In most states, including all those that have dropped "mental retardation" from their names, the services are operated primarily off the state budget, Mitchell said. While Lucas County has no plans to change its name at this time, he acknowledged the change is inevitable.