Deinstitutionalization is the process of replacing stay-in psychiatric hospitals, with community-based services for those with a mental illnesses. Community integration has been beneficial for people with high functioning mental illnesses. Unfortunately, many, who have severe mental illnesses, cannot function alone in society. As a result of deinstitutionalization and inadequate care, they are left homeless, drug dependent, and incarcerated.
The major start to institutionalization of the mentally ill began in the 1840’s, after a woman named Dorothea Dix visited an East Cambridge jail full of people with various mental illnesses. She was astonished by their horrific living conditions. Dorothea saw something that many people didn’t; she saw that these people needed help, not punishment. She fought for adequate treatment and justice for the mentally ill. Because of her determination, over 100 Psychiatric hospitals opened their doors to the mentally ill. (Deinstitutionalization and Its Consequences, 13)
In-stay psychiatric hospitals grew tremendously. By 1955, there were over 560,000 people in psychiatric hospitals. This number would be the peak for psychiatric patients in hospitals, and things began to change. A major part of that change came from the recent approval of the antipsychotic drug, Thorazine, which became the go-to drug in psychiatric hospitals. Thorazine made it possible for patients to be calm and stable. (Deinstitutionalization and Its Consequences, 13) Giving higher ups the illusion that with this medication, they would not necessarily need in-care treatment. That’s when the idea of deinstitutionalization really started to sound appealing.
Deinstitutionalization officially began in 1963, after...
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...e is a “definite connection between mental illness and the use of addictive substances”. As of 2014, It has been estimated that there are around “8.4 million adults in the United States living with a both a mental and substance use disorder.” Sadly, only 7.9 percent of people receive treatment for both conditions, and 53.7 percent receive no treatment at all. (Mental and Substance Abuse Disorders)
One of the main reasons so many of the mentally ill people living on the streets abuse drugs is because they aren’t getting the care that they need, so they use drugs and alcohol to self-medicate, while trying to combat the unpleasant symptoms of their disorder. People suffering from some form of mental health disorder consume 38 percent of alcohol, 44 percent of cocaine, and 40 percent of cigarettes sold in the United States. (Mental Illness and Substance Abuse Disorders)
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