The Norman Transcript

Nation/World

October 21, 2013

Kennedy’s vision unrealized

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — The last piece of legislation President John F. Kennedy signed turns 50 this month: the Community Mental Health Act, which helped transform the way people with mental illness are treated and cared for in the United States.

Signed on Oct. 31, 1963, weeks before Kennedy was assassinated, the legislation aimed to build mental health centers accessible to all Americans so that those with mental illnesses could be treated while working and living at home, rather than being kept in neglectful and often abusive state institutions, sometimes for years on end.

Kennedy said when he signed the bill that the legislation to build 1,500 centers would mean the population of those living in state mental hospitals — at that time more than 500,000 people — could be cut in half. In a special message to Congress earlier that year, he said the idea was to successfully and quickly treat patients in their own communities and then return them to “a useful place in society.”

Recent deadly mass shootings, including at the Washington Navy Yard and a Colorado movie theater, have been perpetrated by men who were apparently not being adequately treated for serious mental illnesses. Those tragedies have focused public attention on the mental health system and made clear that Kennedy’s vision was never fully realized.

The legislation did help to usher in positive life-altering changes for people with serious illnesses such as schizophrenia, many of whom now live normal, productive lives with jobs and families. In 1963, the average stay in a state institution for someone with schizophrenia was 11 years. But only half of the proposed centers were ever built, and those were never fully funded.

Meanwhile, about 90 percent of beds have been cut at state hospitals, according to Paul Appelbaum, a Columbia University psychiatry professor and expert in how the law affects the practice of medicine. In many cases, several mental health experts said, that has left nowhere for the sickest people to turn, so they end up homeless, abusing substances or in prison. The three largest mental health providers in the nation today are jails: Cook County in Illinois, Los Angeles County and Rikers Island in New York.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Nation/World
  • Target taps outsider as CEO for shakeup

    NEW YORK — Target is bringing in an outsider as its CEO for the first time as the retailer fights to redefine itself to American shoppers....

    August 1, 2014

  • Israel and Hamas agree to 72-hour hiatus to negotiate peace deal

    JERUSALEM — Israel and Hamas have agreed to a 72-hour humanitarian cease-fire beginning today, during which time there will be negotiations on a more durable truce in the 24-day-old Gaza war, the United States and United Nations announced ...

    August 1, 2014

  • India landslide kills 21

    NEW DELHI — Rescuers worked in rain today to dig through a remote village in western India where at least 21 people died as a landslide swept away scores of houses, possibly trapping many more people under debris, officials said....

    July 31, 2014

  • Israeli strike hits UN school

    GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — Israeli artillery shells tore through the walls of a U.N. school crowded with sleeping war refugees and back-to-back explosions rocked a market filled with shoppers Wednesday as Israel’s stepped up campaign against ...

    July 31, 2014

  • Busted water main dumps 20 million gallons of water into UCLA’s Pauley Pavilion and adjacent garage

    LOS ANGELES — The rupture of a nearly century-old water main that ripped a 15-foot hole through Sunset Boulevard and turned a swath of the University of California, Los Angeles into a mucky mess points to the risks and expense many cities ...

    July 31, 2014

  • GOP-led House gives go-ahead for suit

    WASHINGTON — A sharply divided House approved a Republican plan Wednesday to launch a campaign-season lawsuit against President Barack Obama, accusing him of exceeding the bounds of his constitutional authority. Just a day before ...

    July 31, 2014

  • Senate approves new VA secretary

    WASHINGTON — The Senate on Tuesday unanimously confirmed former Procter & Gamble CEO Robert McDonald as the new Veterans Affairs secretary, with a mission to overhaul an agency beleaguered by long veterans’ waits for health care and VA ...

    July 30, 2014

  • Senate passes highway bill, sends it to House

    WASHINGTON — The Senate on Tuesday voted to change the funding and timing of a House bill to keep federal highway funds flowing to states in an effort to force Congress to come to grips with chronic funding problems that have plagued ...

    July 30, 2014

  • Israel targets Hamas infrastructures in latest round of bombing

    GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — Israel unleashed its heaviest bombardment in a 3-week-old war against Hamas on Tuesday, striking symbols of the militant group’s control in Gaza and firing tank shells that Palestinian officials said shut down the ...

    July 30, 2014

  • Be ready for ‘prolonged’ Gaza war, prime minister says

    GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — Signaling an escalation of Israel’s Gaza operation, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Israelis Monday to be ready for a “prolonged” war, and the military warned Palestinians in three large neighborhoods to ...

    July 29, 2014