J. Iverson Riddle Developmental Center

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J. Iverson Riddle Developmental Center
Established 1959
Opened 1963
Current Status Active
Building Style Cottage Plan
Location Morganton, NC
Alternate Names
  • Western Carolina Center


The J. Iverson Riddle Developmental Center (originally, the Western Carolina Center) opened in Morganton on 16 Dec. 1963 to provide residential care for the mentally handicapped from the state's western counties-people who otherwise would have had to travel hundreds of miles for assistance. State representatives John W. Umstead Jr., of Orange County, who had a mentally retarded grandchild, and Joe K. Byrd, of Burke County, introduced and secured passage of a bill in 1959 providing $4 million to build a center in western North Carolina. In a subsequent meeting of the North Carolina State Hospital Board of Control, of which Umstead was chair, the decision was made to locate the unit in Burke County rather than Rowan County because the town of Morganton had agreed to furnish sewage treatment service at no cost to the state.

From the beginning, the center's philosophy has been to provide care only after the exhaustion of all other community resources. It has used an interdisciplinary approach toward meeting the needs of profoundly and severely handicapped people while respecting their rights and their due process. The center is believed to be one of the first facilities in the country to develop an aggressive patient advocacy program, a Foster Grandparent Program, and an extensive fine arts program, as well as to stress parental training and early intervention with the families of mentally handicapped infants. The center's name was changed in honor of longtime director J. Iverson Riddle.


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