Although Indiana would eventually become a national leader in closing its institutions for people with I/DD, institutional populations were still growing in the 1950s. Some Hoosier families ignored medical advice, keeping their children at home. They found a common purpose in their need for mutual support and advocacy efforts. In 1953, parents created the Wabash Center in Lafayette to provide for their children with disabilities what the state and the local community did not offer.
The Indiana Association for Retarded Children formed three years later. Now known as The Arc of Indiana, John Dickerson was its director for several decades. “Most of our adults had been placed away in institutions. So it was that core group of families that started us who had younger children that were rejecting that model.”
Advocates across the nation were rejecting the notion that people with disabilities belong behind walls.
These and other advocates across the nation were rejecting the notion that people with disabilities belong behind walls. The Mental Retardation Facilities Construction and Community Mental Health Centers Act of 1963 provided federal support for research and training centers. In subsequent amendments it has come be known as the “DD Act.”
This legislation led to the establishment in the 1970s of three statewide entities comprising today’s Indiana’s Developmental Disability Network, the Indiana Institute on Disability and Community, the Indiana Governor's Council for People with Disabilities, and Indiana Disability Rights. The 1963 Act had also authorized federal funding for community mental health centers. In 1969, Midtown Community Mental Health Center, the first of its kind in Indiana, opened at Marion County General Hospital.