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Schallert The Governmental Aspect the California Mental Health System Kevin Schallert American Political Institution Dr. Wakelee 19 November 2007
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Schallert California's patients rights movement of the 1960's and its subsequent deinstitutionalization of the mentally ill population left in its wake a massive population of mentally ill homeless without an infrastructure to provide sufficient care. The problem quickly bled past the realms of the mental health sector affecting jails, homeless shelters, businesses and eventually lead to a public cry for change. After a series of unfunded mandates, voters passed into law Proposition 63 creating a mandatory tax to provide care for the mentally ill peoples of California. Proposition 63 and the role that voters, lobbyists and the government play in the care and treatment of the mentally ill illustrates the ways the political system can be used for progress. During the 1960s, many people began accusing the state mental hospitals of violating the civil rights of patients. Nurse Ratched, the sadistic nurse famously portrayed in the book and film 'One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest,' became a symbol of institutional indifference to the mentally ill. By the late 1960s, the idea that the mentally ill were not so different from the rest of us, or perhaps were even a little bit more sane, became trendy. Reformers dreamed of taking the mentally ill out of the large institutions and housing them in smaller, community-based residences where they could live more productive and fulfilling lives (Eugene). In 1967, Gov. Ronald Reagan signed the Lanterman-Petris- Short Act (LPS), which went into effect in 1969 and quickly became a national model. The act required that only people who “pose imminent danger to themselves or others, or who are unable to care for themselves” could be forcefully institutionalized (Keaton). This began the deinstitutionalization of California's mentally ill, which transferred care for people with mental illness away from large state- operated hospitals and into community settings. While the goal was to provide better care in the least restrictive settings, many communities lacked the infrastructure and resources necessary to provide adequate care once people were released from hospitals. Money saved from reduced hospitalizations was not reinvested into other community mental health services as had been envisioned. Consequently, many of those released from institutions did not succeed and thrive in the community. A good number
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