New Approaches to Mental Illness

February 2, 1966

Report Outline
Home-Based Care for the Mentally Ill
Changes in the Public Mental Hospital
Results of New Programs and Methods

Home-Based Care for the Mentally Ill

Construction of community mental health centers, now completed or under way in a dozen American cities, marks the start of a “treatment-at-home” program for mental illness that promises to have as profound an effect on that problem as did the movement of a century ago to unshackle “lunatics” confined in state institutions or private dwellings. The federal aid program for the local centers was authorized by Congress in 1963. President Johnson's recently submitted budget for the fiscal year 1967 asked new obligational authority of $84 million for continuation of federal assistance in the building and staffing of the centers. At least half of the states have adopted legislation providing state financial aid for community mental health service programs.

The demand for community facilities of this kind has far outpaced their actual establishment. So urgent is the need that the National Governors Conference sponsored a National Conference on Community Mental Health programs at Chicago, Dec. 13–15, 1965, to explore ways of financing such facilities. The conference set its sights high—establishment of 2,000 community mental health centers by 1975. The federal aid program contemplates the opening of around 500 centers in the next six years.

Plans for Community Mental Health Centers

The community mental health center movement is aiming for much more than multiplication of local clinics and hospitals. Its ambition is to supply every community of any size with a wide array of mental health services which will be at the disposal of anyone in the area at the time a particular service is needed. In effect, the community would offer as comprehensive medical and allied services for individuals suffering emotional or mental disturbance as are now provided in most well-developed communities for those suffering physical illness or injury.

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