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, 30 (9), 599-604

Deinstitutionalization in the Absence of Consensus

Deinstitutionalization in the Absence of Consensus

D J Scherl et al. Hosp Community Psychiatry.


The process of deinstitutionalization began almost unnoticed in 1955 as state hospital populations started to decline, and it proceeded without adequate planning and without development of a social consensus. The inevitable result was strong criticism, severe personal dislocations, and, with rare exceptions, programmatic chaos. The authors trace and describe the reasons for the growing polarization about deinstitutionalization among such groups as mental health professionals, public officials, families, advocacy groups, citizens, and unions. They also note that between 1950 and 1970 the total institutionalized population in the U.S. was not reduced but simply shifted. Deinstitutionalization should focus not on the location of care but on the broader problem of improving the lot of persons with chronic illness, regardless of its cause or time of onset, the authors suggest. They outline the basic elements of a service and financing system to meet both the daily-living and the specifically medical needs of the chronically ill.

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