History of Exceptional People

Who We Are

The Arnold Center is a community rehabilitation organization that provides services to individuals with barriers to employment. Our program strengthens the community through advancing the skills of those that are most vulnerable. Our service programs increase individual potential. We teach life skills that strengthen independence, vocational abilities, soft skills and community engagement.

Our History

Many people with severe disabilities were required to live their life within the confines of an institution. Scrutiny of institutions through disability activism in the late 1950's discovered that so-called mental institutions created dependency, passivity, and exclusion. This resulted in more people being institutionalized; a self-fulfilling affectation. 

Activists of the time argued tat community services would be cheaper, less intrusive and that emerging medications would make it more feasible to release people into the community. Created in 1963, from the social movement of the 1960's, were two legislative laws that served as a catalysis for deinstitutionalization in America and made possible a local inspiration now known as the Arnold Center. The first was the Aid to the Disabled Act that made persons with mental illness eligible for federal financial support in the community setting. The second was the Mental Retardation Facilities and Community Mental Health Centers Construction Act. The latter was amended in 1965 to provide grants for the initial costs of staffing the newly constructed centers. These funding sources coupled with new medications, new alternative methods of dispensing those medications, and better access to outpatient counseling gave rebirth to deinstitutionalization. 

In the mid 60's a local assembly made up of parents, philanthropists, mental health and rehabilitation professionals seized the opportunity to exploit this legislation. Funding became available to support services for people with disabilities already living in the community as well as those coming home from institutions. The question was would these services look like? What could people with severe disabilities do to keep busy? The concept at the time was to establish a local program where persons with disabilities could experience the stimulation and learning required to work in a sheltered environment. Thus, a "sheltered workshop", 

And, so begins the history of the Arnold Center...