Changes in Mental Retardation Care

June 18, 1982

Report Outline
Emphasis on Community Care
New Hampshire: Example of Improvement
Institutional Care and Reaction
Financing Support Programs
Special Focus

Emphasis on Community Care

A Quiet Revolution: Deinstituionalization

The removal of retarded people from large central institutions and their placement in community care programs has been going on for more than a decade, but by comparison with the deinstitutionalization of the mentally ill—a closely related trend—it has received relatively little attention. This may be because far more people suffer from emotional disturbances than from retardation, and many of the mentally ill who are turned out of institutions become street people, quite visible to society.

In contrast to the impression left by those situations, the deinstitutionalization of the retarded has been on the whole good news. It is much better news in some places than others, to be sure, and everybody involved in the process concedes that horrible mistakes sometimes are made. But still, sincerely concerned people have worked hard to dismantle or rebuild a system of huge, restrictive institutions in which retarded people have been warehoused for generations. And they have worked to replace this system with a much more personal and liberating network of community care facilities.

Virtually from scratch, a system of community care programs is being built up around the country. These programs already are serving tens of thousands of people who have been taken out of institutions and tens of thousands more who might have been put into institutions in earlier days. What promises to be even more important in the future, these facilities also can serve the needs of hundreds of thousands other retarded people who never have received adequate care.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Mental Health
People with Mental Disabilities