What is the Legislation Community Mental Health Care Act?
It’s been fifty (50) years since President John F. Kennedy’s Community Mental Health Care Act was signed. Over that time, there have been periods of hope…What is this Legislation?
It transformed how we (people living with mental illness) receive services and treatments here in the States. “It was the country’s boldest attempt to bring mental health care into the modern era by moving people out of inpatient psychiatric hospitals, and put them back in the community where they belong, making mental health care affordable and readily available to all Americans,” says Dr. John Grohol, Founder & CEO of Psych Central.
President John F. Kennedy seemed to have deep empathy and was willing to brave the “New Frontier” with the community Mental Health Act. JFK was the first to launch his administration to publicly acknowledge “intellectual disability” (Psychological Disorders/Mental Disorder). In the 60’s, this was a neglected issue and he seemed to have high hopes for the Legislation for Mental Health Care Act. JFK had family with “intellectual disability” and as we know now, there were some suffering in his family.
“On October 24, 1963, President Kennedy signed the Maternal and Child Health and Mental Retardation Planning Amendment to the Social Security Act, the first major legislation to combat mental illness and retardation.” – JFK Library Intellectual Disabilities
Community Mental Health Care Act Ground Breaking
Ground breaking it was for the mentally ill! What an incredible win for our peers of that era in the 60’s–of a time when a dark cloud and horrifying barbarism including government approved lobotomies, forced (old style ECT) electroconvulsive therapy* to name a few so-called treatments that were used. It still gives you the chills just thinking about the conditions of the past and how much stigma of today is rooted in the stereotypes of yesteryear. In 1963, for the mentally ill, things were going to get better…that was a JFK dream. In his speech to congress:
“This situation has been tolerated far too long. It has troubled our national conscience–but only as a problem unpleasant to mention, easy to postpone, and despairing of solution. The Federal government, despite the nationwide impact of the problem, has largely left the solutions up to the States. The States have depended on custodial hospitals and homes. Many such hospitals and homes have been shamefully understaffed, overcrowded institutions from which death too often provided the only firm hope of release…” http://americamagazine.org/node/127216
Charlotte Behavioral Health Care History
What happened next? Would communities step up and take on mental health services and offer affordable services for community members?
We are very fortunate to have CBHC! Did you know? It was Chartered in June, 1968 through the efforts of the Mental Health Association of Charlotte County and Mrs. Leona Vrancken. Thank You Mrs. Vrancken!
In June 1969, Charlotte Community Mental Health Services (Charlotte Behavioral Health Care) began offering services with a small staff of 7 – 5 therapists and 2 support staff and a simple mission – “to provide free or low cost mental health services to the residents of Charlotte County.” – CBHC History
Flash forward- TODAY- If not for JFK’s legislation, we might not have CBHC and I probably would be writing this from a state psychiatric hospital…(no scratch that–they probably wouldn’t allow use of the computer, too many sharp edges.) We might not have the funding JFK had hoped and we may not have realized his vision* for communities to have enough funding for sustainability. Instead, you have a Mental Health Care Act that is now 50 years old and has no teeth! But WE have CBHC and that is something for which I’m am personally thankful.
People are suffering every day not being able to get the help they need. They can only get the help that is funded. I will repeat: they only get the help that is funded! It is how it has been for 50 years! Is change coming? Will it take another 50 years to figure out?
How is Charlotte Behavioral Health Care doing on the 50th anniversary of the Community Mental Health Care Act?
Read an article that ran in the Charlotte Sun on Sunday, October 13, 2013 titled Jails Pay The Price For State’s Poor Mental Health Policy to get that answer.Chato Stewart Consumer Peer Ambassador ~~~~~~~~~~~ * Reference To learn more about “Kennedy’s Vision For Mental Health Never Realized in USA TODAY http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/10/20/kennedys-vision-mental-health/3100001/ *NOTE: ECT from the 1930’s is nothing like today’s ECT.