The Community Mental Health Act of 1963

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18 October 2015

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The Community Mental Health Act of 1963


            Community mental health center act of 1963 was a significant milestone in America’s record of mental health rights. On 31st October 1963, the act was signed into a regulation by President John F. Kennedy. The law was the pioneer among other many federal policy alterations that helped ignite a significant transformation of the communal mental health arrangement by shifting resources outside huge organization toward community-based mental health action line up. The act lead to increased improvement in the rights of and treatment options for youth, children and adults living with mental sickness, though full guarantee of community-base concern has not been fully apprehended. This paper seeks to explain the rationale of community mental health center act of 1963.

            President Kennedy referred the law as a bold new approach and it was the first federal bylaw to promote community-based mental health care. The Act offered donation to state for the building of (CMHC) community mental health centers, special facilities designed for treatment, diagnosis and delivery of mental health prevention to persons living in the community. The centers were built to provide the following indispensable services: inpatient services, emergency services, education and consultation on mental health, outpatient services, partial hospitalization and emergency response. The donations were projected to provide 1500 more community mental health centers across the country (Dolan &Powell, 2001).

            The act was proposed because the country was experiencing an increased number of children and adults with mental illness. In mid 1950’s, over 500000 adults and children were institutionalized for mental sickness. The public sentiment concerning the system of institutionalization started to transform. People questioned about the usefulness of the institutional care. The public criticized that the care centers did not treat patients holistically while others said that the centers worsened the patient’s mental status. In addition the increased awareness of the appalling conditions in several psychiatric hospitals made the communal pressure to construct treatment options. The president proposed the community mental health act because of the intensified pressure from the general public demanding changes in the public mental health system (Hill, 1963).

            These institutions had few and less skilled staff to cater for the large number of patients. Thousands of patients were warehoused in these institutions for long periods without care of treatment. For example, the standard period of stay for a patient suffering from schizophrenia was 11 years. The act was very vital to the people with mental illnesses who were warehoused for long time in the institutions to move back to their communities. The act drastically changed the delivery of mental health services and enthused a new epoch of sanguinity in mental health concern. The development of effectual psychotropic medications and new practice in psychotherapy made society-based concern for individuals with mental illnesses a realistic solution. This gave people awareness that mental sicknesses could be treated more successfully and in a cheap approach in civic settings than in customary psychiatric hospitals.

            The act led to development of wide-ranging community mental health centers all over the country. People came to acknowledge the need for more treatment alternatives for addiction disorders, as services delivered to the mental ill patients became assorted and widespread. The decree was catalyzed by a key study of the care of inhabitants with mental sickness during President Eisenhower’s reign, and led to a report in 1961. The 1961 report was referred as Joint Commission on Mental Illness and Health: Action for Mental Health. President Kennedy signed the Mental Retardation Facilities and Community Mental Health Centers Construction Act of 1963 just 23 days before he was assassinated in Dallas.

            President Kennedy said , “The law facilitated various positive transformations for millions of Americans: the deinstitutionalization of mental health concern and the construction of community mental health centers all over the United States to perk up access, advance research grant, increase consideration to the requirements of those with mental illness, educate medical doctors and supplementary mental health experts in community-based care, instruct about the significance of working in an interdisciplinary approach to serve patients and families, and amalgamate social, environmental and mental aspects to augment recovery.”

            The president proposed the act to help in the inauguration of a wholly innovative emphasis and manner to care for mental ill patients. The system would make use of new drugs obtained and manufactured in current years for faster and appropriate treatment of mentally ill persons and return them to a useful state in society. The act was projected to help many mentally ill patients since it will help them remain in their homesteads without causing hardship to them as well as their families. The main objective of the act was to cut down the institutional population. The number of institutions had decreased by 75% by 1980 and the number continued to decrease gradually. There were about 55000 institutionalized people in 2000 which represent less than 10% of the institutions in mid 1950’s. The change was especially prominent among youth and children. The institutionalized population had decreased by 98% by 2009. Despite this advancement, the public mental health systems significantly failed to provide adequate resources and staff members to support and treat persons at home and in the community-based settings. The service arrangement in many societies continues to be insufficiently intensive and comprehensive to handle the number of adults and young people who return from institutionalized centers. Through proper scrutiny to the public mental health systems, they were critically understaffed and underfunded and this continues until now (Hill, 1963).

            The people with mental illnesses struggle to stay in their societies in a safe manner due to inadequate support and service. The symptoms of a society lacking enough public mental health system include suicide, substance abuse disorders, increased risk of homelessness, and incarceration among mentally ill persons. Juvenile justice professionals said that more than 70% of detained youth suffer from a mental disorder and 20% have a serious mental illness. In the recent past many families are take their children to child welfare and juvenile justice systems so that they can access mental health services which are inadequate in the community (Engdahl, 2010).

            In conclusion, the promise of the Community Mental Health Act has not been apprehended. The closure of institutions without intensifying community-based services and funding has led to severe hardships on many mentally ill patients. However the elementary principles of community care espoused in the Act offered the foundation and vision for considerable progress. There is a lot to be done to realize the full promise of the Act to the community. In order to provide treatment and appropriate services to mentally ill patients it is vital to add the number of staff, train the staff and provide adequate funding to ensure proper running of the system.


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"The Community Mental Health Act of 1963" StudyScroll, 18-Oct-2015. [Online]. Available: [Accessed: 28-Jan-2023]

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