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Opinion: Time to break developmental disability stereotypes

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The month of March is celebrated as National Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month. This annual observance offers a chance to learn more about the vital contributions people with disabilities are making in our communities.

The first National Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month was observed in 1987, following decades of efforts to raise awareness about developmental disabilities. Former President Ronald Reagan signed the first proclamation, stating, “I urge all Americans to join me in according our fellow citizens with such disabilities both encouragement and the opportunities they need to lead productive lives and to achieve their full potential.”

I would ask everyone in Springfield to please join me as we strive to overcome the myths, stereotypes and low expectations that can lead to barriers to equitable experiences and the inclusion of those with disabilities.

In our community, we have a strong network of providers who assist people with intellectual or developmental disabilities to lead full, productive lives. These services are funded in partnership with local tax dollars, along with state and federal programs.

Our local funding organization is appropriately named Abilities First. They, along with the state, implement vital services of early childhood therapies, a variety of employment services, day programs, residential supports, transportation and case management.

This year, as vice chair of the Missouri Senate Appropriations Committee, I will have the opportunity to increase the state’s investment in these vital services and support the provider network. Sometimes, policymakers in Jefferson City lose focus of what is most important and at the core of what government should be doing.

I believe supporting some of the most vulnerable in our communities and enabling them to live their life to their full potential is exactly where we need to concentrate. Governing is about the day-to-day impact of all Missourians. These issues affect people differently but are important to all of us.

Join me in celebrating National Developmental Disability Awareness Month as we work to support services assisting people with developmental disabilities to lead healthy and productive lives they choose.

Missouri state Sen. Lincoln Hough, R-Springfield, can be reached at Senate.Mo.gov.

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