The Public Interest

Whatever happened to “community mental health”?

David F. Musto

Spring 1975

GETTING what one wants may be one of lifes disillusionments, but it is also instructive. In October 1963, supporters of the “community mental health” approach to psychiatry got a good deal of what they wanted when President Kennedy signed the Community Mental Health Centers Act, authorizing $150 million for the construction of community mental health centers (CMHCs) over the next three years. The ideas supporters got even more of what they wanted in 1965, when $73.5 million in federal money was allocated for the additional purpose of hiring professional and technical staffs for the centers. By now over $900 million has been spent or obligated for the CMHC program, nearly 450 federally aided centers have opened, another 150 are already funded though not yet operational, and an estimated 86 million Americans live in the service areas of these 600 organizations. 

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