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In the early 1970s North Carolina was mandated to deinstitutionalize mentally retarded people. Group homes were established to give them an opportunity to live near their families and to become more active members of the community.

In 15 years, many people have obtained services through affiliated programs. Some have received training that allows them to be competitively employed. Others have even been able to live alone in apartments with minimal supervision.Twenty years ago the integration of mentally retarded people into communities was thought to be unrealistic. However, in addition to promoting the independence of a segment of our population that previously was totally dependent upon others, it has done so at less than half the cost it takes to maintain institutions.

There are still over 216,000 people across the state who require services not currently available. In Guilford County there are plans to expand the number of group homes. This is difficult because most tax dollars continue to go to institutions which now serves the minority, and because of public misconceptions of the nature of mental retardation. The group-home program continues to make creative use of cooperative community resources.

This is a thank-you to all of those who have supported these programs and a solicitation citation for continued and expanded community support. Luann Russell Greensboro

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