Deinstitutionalizing the Mentally Ill, Blessing or Curse?
The deinstitutionalization of the mentally ill was originally and idealistically portrayed as a liberating, humane policy alternative to the restrictive care in large state supported hospitals. It was supposed to help these individuals regain freedom and empower themselves through responsible choices and actions. Due to many funding issues, stiff opposition from communities, and ill-equipped patients, who are unable to live independently, this idealized program, has not always been a blessing for the communities or the patients. In the early 1960s, President John F. Kennedy signed into law a bill that began the movement known as deinstitutionalization. The purpose of the new law was to put an end to the tendency to warehouse people with mental illnesses, as well as those with developmental disabilities, including the mentally and physically handicapped. The idea was to move the less severely mentally ill from those large institutions into the community, where local treatment centers would be established to provide them with medical, psychiatric, and social support they need to be able to live and function. Some believe that deinstitutionalization has been and continues to be successful. Perhaps one of the brightest spots of the effects of deinstitutionalization is that the mentally ill have gained a greatly increased measure of liberty (Curtis, 2008). Some persons, despite their illnesses, have realized a certain degree of normalization in their daily activities. Some live independently, and some are productively employed, achievements that were relatively rare in the days before deinstitutionalization. For these people, deinstitutionalization must be regarded as a positive development (Warner, 1995). Deinstitutionalization, which has now become a synonym for neglect, was supposed to be about creating a new system of services and supports that would allow people with...
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