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Mr. JOHANNS. Mr. President, I rise today to speak about the need to support programs which help individuals with developmental disabilities such as Special Olympics. The care and treatment of people with developmental disabilities has always been a priority of mine. In fact, it is probably the major reason I am in public service today.
When I was Governor of Nebraska, I made it a priority to reform a piece of the system delivery in our State. Many of these citizens had mental illness and developmental disabilities. One of my major achievements was signing a bill into law which increased the use of community-based services for these citizens.
In Nebraska today, these citizens are much more likely to receive care at a specialized day treatment program or other local residential facility. This legislation was a victory for those Nebraskans and their loved ones who suffer from mental illness, giving them a chance to more fully participate in everyday life and to make a contribution to their communities.
Our efforts to aid the most vulnerable among us, though, must be a national as well as a local goal. And Government is only a part of the solution. There are many impressive private organizations which assist people with disabilities, but perhaps none as impressive as the Special Olympics.
Special Olympics is a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping this population become physically fit and productive by participating in sports training and competition. For over 40 years, Special Olympics has used sports to help bring people together and provide a venue for athletes with disabilities to compete with each other as equals.
But as anyone who has been involved with Special Olympics can tell you, it is much more than just the competition. The camaraderie and the sense of accomplishment felt by these very special citizens and athletes gives them self-confidence in every aspect of their lives. This is critically important work.
Special Olympics and similar organizations are vital to our fundamental national principles of human equality and our basic common dignity. It takes many volunteers to drive the success of an organization such as Special Olympics. In fact, when the National Games come to Nebraska next year, they are going to need 8,000 volunteers to serve 3,000 athletes, 15,000 family and friends, and 30,000 fans who will attend.
I am very proud our home State is taking on the challenges associated with this sporting event. Special Olympics has raised $1.5 million in private local funding for the 2010 National Games, which should indicate the State's level of enthusiasm for the event.
To encourage the American volunteer spirit and help Special Olympics reach its goal of 8,000 volunteers for the 2010 games, I am very pleased to introduce an amendment which would increase the funding authorization for service programs assisting people with disabilities. I can think of no more worthwhile endeavor.
My amendment would double the amount of funding authorized under the National and Community Service Act that is set aside for such purposes and double the limit of such funding to $20 million. It must be the task of all of us to care for those most at risk. Helping people with developmental disabilities lead productive and fulfilling lives benefits our entire Nation and should thus be a national priority. I hope the Senate will agree with me on this and vote to pass my amendment.
Thank you, and I yield the floor.
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