It is appropriate that the Kennedy Krieger Institute is celebrating its first 25 years with new facilities and expansion plans. Resources devoted to diagnosing and treating the illnesses, injuries and birth defects affecting the brains of children and adolescents may have grown, but so have demands. "We've been growing by about 25 percent a year. I don't see it stopping," reports the institution's president, Dr. Gary W. Goldstein.
When it opened in 1967 at the corner of Broadway and Monument -- next door to the Johns Hopkins Hospital -- the John F. Kennedy Institute had a double mission: to develop methods of treatment and care for children with brain disabilities and to serve as a training center for physicians and other health professionals. The aim was wider, the focus sharper but in its overall task the institution continued the pioneering work initiated in 1937 by Dr. Winthrop M. Phelps, who dedicated much of his career to rehabilitating Maryland children with cerebral palsy.
President Kennedy is honored in the institute's name because of the important role he played in the passage of the Mental Retardation Facilities and Community Mental Health Center Construction Act of 1962, which channeled federal funds to an area that previously had been largely neglected. Last year, the institute amplified its name to also honor Zanvyl Krieger, the Baltimore financier, philanthropist and long-time advocate for helping children and adolescents with disorders of the brain.
The Kennedy Krieger Institute is now embarking on a major expansion. It is in the middle of a $25 million capital campaign that will enable it to build a six-story addition to its headquarters at 707 North Broadway. The new space is needed to facilitate the institute's growing research work and hospital services. Meanwhile, the institute recently completed the rehabilitation of an old school in nearby Washington Hill into a state-of-the-art learning center for brain-disabled children.
Whether the starting point of today's Kennedy Krieger Institute is seen as 1937 -- which would make it 55 years old -- or 1967, this comprehensive treatment and research center is only in the beginning of a long journey in discovery and healing. The unique institute has served Maryland and the nation well and deserves generous support.