Wayne Center was created after a group of concerned parents of institutionalized residents challenged the policies and practices of state government as stewards of their special children. Wayne Center for the Retarded opened its doors in June 1973, in downtown Detroit as a human service agency dedicated to eliminating the antiquated practice of warehousing citizens with mental and developmentally disabilities. These heroic parents were appalled by the lack of quality care associated with institutional life. Their efforts lead to a broad restructuring of service and care for persons with mental and developmental disabilities.
The struggle for humane quality care in the beginning was aided by special interventions by our court system and agitation by the press. Specifically, acting on a complaint and lawsuit by this group of concerned parents, a Michigan jurist took notice of their concerns and issued a landmark court decision. The decision forced the State to dismantle large institutional quarters and began practice of community placement for children and adults who could benefit from least restrictive community settings. Award winning stories, which documented the conditions under institutionalization, helped create community consciousness and concern for institutionalized patients. In a breaking story with headlines of the style associated with 60 Minutes and public broadcasting investigative reports, Detroit Free Press special assignment writer Susan Watson accompanied a group of concerned parents into the Plymouth Institutional Care Facility, documenting for public knowledge the criminal conditions inside of Michigan’s mental health care facilities. These actions along with others led to more humane treatment of people with mental and developmental disabilities.
Over the years Wayne Center has sharpened its focus and has caused several organizations to spring into existence. From Wayne Center’s outpatient and intake services, the Greater Detroit Life Consultation Center was born and from its guardianship services, Metro Agency was developed. In 1993, Wayne Center moved to Detroit’s New Center community making its home in the Albert Kahn Building. The change in location was accompanied by unprecedented growth in the agency, a name change, and the creation of several programs, which helped build the reputation of Wayne Center. In 1986, Wayne Center opened its western office and in 1989, Wayne Center opened its Southern office. The southern office was subsequently closed in 1994 because of a redeployment of our resources. The western office closed in 2000.
Wayne Center is a 41-year old non-profit community mental health agency under the leadership of Diane L. McCall President & Chief Executive Officer and Alma Handy-Simmons, Chairperson, Board of Directors. The board represents a cross-section of parents/guardians, community opinion leaders, professionals and human service providers. The Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF) accredits Wayne Center. Wayne Center provides supportive services to approximately 800 individuals with developmental disabilities between the ages of 8 months and 84 years of age living in foster care homes for children and adults, community group homes and scattered independent living sites.