, Volume 36, Issue 1, pp 107-124

The Delivery of Mental Health Services in the 21st Century: Bringing the Community Back In

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Abstract

The community mental health movement of the 1960s enjoyed widespread public support but poorly served its intended target population of seriously mentally ill individuals because: (1) its professional values and technology were, at least initially, not well-oriented toward serving people with severe mental illness; (2) organizational structures linking Community Mental Health Centers with State Mental Health Agencies, State Hospitals, and other relevant service agencies were lacking; (3) ideologically driven aspirations diverted energies and resources into diffuse goals related to the achievement of social justice; and (4) performance objectives were not operationally defined or monitored. Since that time professional technologies and organizational linkages have substantially improved, but there has been a loss of public support for safety net services for the least well off, in part due to a general ascendence of individualist market values, declining civic engagement and reduced support for specialized services for the disadvantaged. A new community mental health movement would be less oriented towards stimulating broad community change, and more narrowly focused on building support among decision makers and the public at large to expand the availability of costly but effective and improved services for people with severe and persistent mental illness.