From 1977 to 1994, Carole Roper Park Vaughan represented the 51st District in the Missouri House of Representatives. Carole used her legislative career to not only champion mental health issues, but to elevate mental health to a previously unseen status in the budget and policy debates of the state legislature.
In 1981, Carole became the first woman in Missouri history to chair a standing appropriations committee, and for 13 years Carole reigned over the Committee on “Appropriations for Health and Mental Health. Hailing from the home of Harry Truman, Carole had a real no-nonsense style about her, and she got things done.
At the time she was appointed to that position, Missouri was headed into a recission, and there was a desperate call to cut health services. Carole, however, was able to make the necessary changes without sacrificing services. In fact, throughout her tenure as chair of the committee, Missouri made steady improvements in the mental health services it provided.
Carole’s dedication to those suffering from mental illness, developmental disabilites, head injuries, and substance abuse was inspiring for consumers and their families. While her work with community mental health centers or substance abuse programs seldom made the front page, she worked tirelessly in the pursuit of better treatment for these special citizens. The result of her dedication was the transformation of the mental health system into a community-based approach that provides real options for some of our most vulnerable.
Carole was born in Sugar Creek, MO, where her father served as the mayor for 40 years, from 1940 until 1980, so she came by her political acumen naturally. In fact, while other little girls were playing with dolls, stuffed animals, or having teas, Carole was with her father learning the art of making a deal, a skill she would later take with her to the state legislature.
Her dedication to public service began through her work with students in the Kansas City School District. For 12 years, she taught elementary school in some of the poorest school districts in the Kansas City area. It was here that she fully realized the importance of community involvement. But it is her leadership and accomplishments as a state representative and her vigorous pursuit to improve the way mental health care is delivered that is her lasting legacy on Missouri’s mental health system.
Gerald J. Zafft
For families with a child who has a disability, one of the most daunting issues they face is how to ensure their child continues to live with dignity, community inclusion, and independence after they are no longer able to care for them. Gerald (Jerry) Zafft realized the need to do something to address this issue, and his skills as an attorney and insight as a parent of a child with a disability provided a way for parents to have assurance their child will be cared for in the future.
A prominent attorney with the St. Louis firm of Stinson Morrison Hecker LLP, Jerry has considerable experience in estate planning for families who have a member with a disability. This experience led to the creation of the Midwest Special Needs Trust (formerly Missouri Family Trust), of which Jerry is the prime author and the driving force behind its development.
The Midwest Special Needs Trust (MSNT) is a nationally recognized innovative approach which permits a family to provide for their loved one’s benefit, without jeopardizing his or her eligibility for government entitlement funding. It provides services to hundreds of families in Missouri and other Midwestern states.
Jerry has been on the board of the Midwest Special Needs Trust since its creation in 1990, guiding the entity to its place today as a critical resource for many families. In addition to the development of the MSNT, Jerry has a long history of service to persons with developmental disabilities. He has been honored with the Tice Humanitarian Award for his many years of service to Rainbow Village and his commitment to improve the residential services for people with developmental disabilities. Since 2000, Jerry has been a member of the Board of Directors of Rainbow Village and has been an active participant on several committees. Rainbow Village, a non-profit organization, provides safe, comfortable, and affordable homes in the St. Louis Metro Area for people with developmental disabilites. It currently houses 225 people and has 46 homes.
Jerry served on the Missouri Mental Health Commission from 1985 to 1989 and was Chairman from 1988 to 1989. He is also a long-time member of the board of the Woodhaven Learning Center and the board of Project, Inc.
Jerry and his wife, Judy, reside in St. Louis. They are the parents of three children. Families throughout Missouri and the Midwest who have a child with a disability are better prepared to address their child’s future thanks to the tireless efforts of Jerry Zafft.