Why We Exist

Why We Exist

Prior to the 1960’s, care for the mentally ill in the United States was primarily handled through a federally supported network of asylums managed by each state. Over time, the medical community began to realize that many mental institutions were overcrowded, at times inhumane, and becoming increasing expensive to operate. The narrative from the medical community that asylums had become less effective at serving the needs of the mentally ill was a strong catalyst causing political pressure on states, including California, to cut funding to asylums.

During the 1960’s and continuing through the early 1980’s, many states began to close down mental institutions, and in turn, many of the former mentally ill patients they served were left to fend for themselves. The problem is that many of those former patients were never taught the life skills that would allow them to lead a productive life in their communities. Initially community health centers attempted to fill some of the gaps by helping the mentally ill access basic services, but those health centers were soon overwhelmed. Large populations of former mental asylums thus wound up homeless.

Since the 1980’s, one of the responses to homelessness within the mentally ill population in the United States that has emerged is the development and growth of housing and life skills programs. Many of these programs are offered and managed by agencies such as Casa de Sincero, and include medication compliance (making sure that mentally ill clients are taking their prescribed medications on time), engagement with family members and the community at large. Agencies such as ours have become vital to the well-being of the mentally ill because without the services we provide, many clients would be homeless and without an adequate support network.

Below please find some articles that have been published over the years that can provide you with additional information about the history of how the United States has addressed mental health care.

How Release of Mental Patients Began
(The New York Times; published October 30, 1984)

Impact of the Mental Healthcare Delivery System on California Emergency Departments
(Western Journal of American Medicine; published February 2012)

President Reagan and Mental Health: A Look at the Record
(American Psychiatric Association; published February 1981)

Ronald Reagan’s Shameful Legacy: Violence, the Homeless, Mental Health
(Salon.com; published September 29, 2013)