3. 1963 Community Mental Health Act – After 50 Years

It has been almost 50 years since the creation of the Community Mental Health Act of 1963 and the creation of the Medicaid program in 1965. The Mental Health Act deinstitutionalized the care and support for those who were diagnosed with psychological and developmental disorders and Medicaid provided a means for the disabled to receive professional medical care. During this fifty year period, American society has gone from a workable network of support and services for those who live with psychological and developmental disorders to a point where the network is fractured and services have been reduced to dysfunctional levels. The Community Mental Health Act is still the norm, but the broken network and lack of services creates serious public safety issues; if a nation is going make deinstitutionalization its gold standard, it better provide the highest levels of public funding for community based programs or acknowledge to the citizens that public safety and health is not a priority. In our nation we have a real crisis facing us and if we do not address it, things are going to become very dangerous; because when a disability has destabilized the mental health of someone without a network to provide them with pro-active treatment and services, something very bad can happen in the city parks. As a nation we need to decide if we want to continue with deinstitutionalization or start building secured facilities with professional staff members to operate them. Failure to decide is an unwise and unhealthy option. As faith-based communities, Christians need to decide what direction they are going to take on this serious matter and take steps towards their decision and promote it. For Christians this is an issue of social justice and a matter of social morality.

Before us we have three options: deinstitutionalization (fully funded community based programs), public institutions (secured facilities funded by the government), or make no decision (the most dangerous option).

Written by Dave Pflueger May 2012  © copyrighted by Pflueger

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