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Letter: Words of politicians matter


Re: The Dec. 17 Detroit News report, “Fouts, Hackel spar after leak of controversial audio”: All people deserve to be treated with respect and dignity and given the chance to live self-determined independent lives. While we have made some progress, recent events are a sober reminder that stigma still exists out there, standing in the way of efforts to create a more inclusive society.

Audio tapes, allegedly of the Warren mayor, were recently released, referring to Michiganians with intellectual and developmental disabilities in a vile and dehumanizing manner. These comments showed such a horrendous disregard for the value and worth of people with developmental and intellectual disabilities.

Using such derogatory language to attack another human being is about as low as anyone can go. These appalling words contribute to dehumanization of people with developmental and intellectual disabilities and should not be acceptable in a civilized society.

Words have meaning and can cut like a knife, especially to people who want nothing more than to be included and accepted in society. The Detroit Wayne Mental Health Authority along with disability rights advocacy groups work tirelessly to end stigma that has plagued our society for decades.

The “R” word has been removed from both state and federal laws and just last week legislation was approved by the Legislature to end the practice of secluding and restraint in all but emergency situations on our public schools.

Community education campaigns are underway to help end mental health stigma by educating our community and reducing the ignorance surrounding developmental differences. The Emmy-nominated documentary Opening Minds- Ending Stigma was produced to continue raising awareness. But clearly there is a long way to go.

Let’s take the ignorance that comes with horrendous comments and turn this into an opportunity to do something positive. There’s a lot of talk about anti-stigma efforts but rarely are there substantial resources to put toward it.

We are teaming up with the Arc of Michigan to defeat stigma once and for all and show the world how amazing, beautiful and valuable all people are. Look for our fundraiser on GoFundMe.

As a society, we can and must do better on how we treat all people with the dignity and respect they deserve, not just during the holiday season but all year long.

Brian Calley

Lieutenant governor of Michigan

Tom Watkins

President and CEO

Detroit Wayne Mental Health Authority