GREENEVILLE. — In small-town Greeneville — former home to President Andrew Johnson and The Band Perry — a 52-year-old facility for people with limited mental functioning continues to operate despite a nationwide civil rights movement to end such segregated institutions for people with disabilities.
More than 100 people, ranging in age from 29 to 91, still live inside Greene Valley Developmental Center. At its peak there were more than 1,000 residents, but no one new has been admitted in three years. The state has plans to move just a few people out, even though outside experts have said most residents would be better off living elsewhere.
The continued existence of Greene Valley is a testament to the difficulties involved in dismantling nearly a century of thinking and practice in caring for people with intellectual disabilities — people who used to be called "mentally retarded" and sent away to institutions by their families, often at very young ages.
In recent years, relatives and guardians of Greene Valley residents have resisted allowing their loved ones to move from the security and familiarity of a place where many have spent nearly their entire lives.
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