, Volume 18, Issue 6, pp 909-915

Community-based services and resources: The significance of choice and diversity

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We are reminded by the growth of consumer-run approaches of the value of diversity and individual choice in community support of persons with severe mental illness. These ideas are evident in the alternative approaches that have been developed to serve persons who have not been reached by more traditional services. The ACT program, described by Bond et al. (1990), is an example of a service approach designed to be responsive to individuals' day-to-day needs as they define them. Continued development of this type of alternative service should be encouraged.

Persons coping with severe mental illness benefit from a variety of community supports and resources. Strategies that encourage consumer involvement, ownership, and control help to provide diversity of services and to empower the consumer. Our efforts, as professionals, to provide community services can be enhanced by (a) supporting diversity of service and resource options, both inside and outside of the professional mental health system; (b) developing services that are responsive to individuals needs as they define them; and (c) facilitating the process of consumer choice in selecting resources options.

The author expresses thanks to Marc A. Zimmerman and Richard H. Price for comments on earlier drafts of this paper.