1 in 5 U.S. adults experience mental illness each year,” (National Alliance on Mental Illness).

The United States has battled with an unnavigable mental health care system – from the mass closing of public psychiatric institutions during the deinstitutionalization movement following World War II, to the current budget cuts of mental health funding, and to the tragedies that have persisted from the failures of mental health care, it is clear this is a public health epidemic we must take action to fix.

Patients and staff of the St. Louis City Insane Asylum on March 28, 1904, in St. Louis, MO.

Patients at public mental hospitals were discharged at unprecedented rates as a result of deinstitutionalization in the mid-1950s.”Insane asylums,” such as the one pictured above, put patients in squalor and worsened their conditions before the existence of psychotropic medication and science-based therapies. Civil rights lawyers and activists were appalled at the conditions of public psychiatric institutions at this time, as they resembled what the public saw of concentration camps during World War II. Although many activists had good intentions for deinstitutionalization, as I will explore throughout this site, there were devastating impacts.

Recently, mental health and public policy advocates have begun to shed light on the gaps that exist in the current mental health care system. Now recognized as a public health epidemic and bipartisan policymaking issue, mental health care is an ethical problem we must take action to fix. The current mental health care system in the United States has left mentally ill individuals and those around them in harm’s way and at high risk of homelessness, victimization by law enforcement, and incarceration. As a result, we must take action to expand the accessibility and affordability of public mental health institutions. This broken system is failing thousands each year and harming society as a whole.

This site aims to inform readers of the United States’ complex history of the deinstitutionalization movement, explain the ethical implications of the law’s consequences, and provide recommendations to mend the broken system and save lives.

Outside Acute Admissions at the Norristown State Hospital in Norristown, PA, still operating as a state-funded psychiatric hospital today – the only remaining of its kind in southeastern Pennsylvania. This facility was originally called the “State Lunatic Hospital at Norristown” and opened in 1876.