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General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

How to Bring Sanity to our Mental Health System

(Comment from Blog owner Janice..

Back in the late 70’s I was in a graduate Community Information program (similar to a library science program..but not accredited by the American Library Association)

My internship was at the local state hospital for the mentally ill. The program I was in had a partnership with the state hospital.
The program set up an information and referral (I&R) center

The I & R center  included pamphlets, brochures, and other handouts in areas the newly released would find handy. I remember social services, food pantries, legal aid societies, health clinics, and churches.

The social workers and other staff, as well as the university program interns, would interview the patients about to be released about their information needs. Then relevant information would be collected from the I & R center and be discussed with the patients.
To this day,  I wonder just how helpful this whole process was..I remember follow up studies were done, but never saw the final reports. Still, patients were being released at an astounding rate, and while not perfect, it did somewhat address the need…
When the university program was abolished in the 80s, I believe the “database” of was all in paper format..eventually went over to the United Way to supplement their information on local agencies)

From  The Center for Policy Innovation Discussion Paper #2

Abstract: Fifty years ago, America began a grand experiment by transferring to the federal government the fiscal responsibility for individuals with mental illnesses. During that half-century, it has become increasingly clear that the experiment has been a costly failure, both in terms of human lives and in terms of dollars. The outcome was, in fact, clear as early as 1984, when the chief architect of the federal community mental health centers program proclaimed it to be a failure: “The result is not what we intended, and perhaps we didn’t ask the questions that should have been asked when developing a new concept….” Bringing sanity to our present mental health system is dependent on one essential change: Return the primary responsibility for such services to the states.

In 1963, the United States embarked upon a grand social experiment. Since the nation’s founding, responsibility for providing services for mentally disabled individuals had been assumed by state and local governments. The new plan proposed by President John F. Kennedy envisioned the closing of state psychiatric hospitals and the opening of federally funded community mental health centers (CMHCs) to provide psychiatric services. This effectively shifted the burden of responsibility from the states to the federal government. The states viewed it as a way to save state funds and effectively ceased their efforts to develop or improve existing services on their own.

Half a century later, the results of this noble experiment are clear. Rarely in the history of American government has a program conceived with such good intentions produced such bad results. The patients were deinstitutionalized from the state hospitals, but most of the 763 federally funded CMHCs failed to provide services for them. The majority of the discharged patients, and those who became mentally ill after the hospitals closed, ended up homeless, incarcerated in jails and prisons, or living in board-and-care homes and nursing homes that were often worse than the hospitals that had been closed….

…The consequences of this failed experiment for mentally ill individuals, for their families, and for the public at large are legion. Mentally ill homeless persons live on our streets like urban gargoyles and expropriate parks, playgrounds, libraries, and other public spaces. Jails and prisons have become progressively filled with mentally ill inmates, thereby transforming these institutions into the nation’s new psychiatric inpatient system….

…here are ways to bring sanity to our present mental health system, but they are dependent on one essential change: Return the primary responsibility for such services to the states. …

December 23, 2011 Posted by | Public Health | , , | 1 Comment


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