Graduation Year

Spring 2012

Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



Reader 1

Frederick R. Lynch

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Rights Information

© 2012 Olga Loraine Kofman


In 1963, President John F. Kennedy signed the Mental Retardation and Community Mental Health Centers Construction Act, establishing the beginnings of deinstitutionalization in the United States. By some counts, this Act was a stupendous policy success—by others, a dismal failure. 50 years later, no cohesive national mental health care policy has emerged to deal with increased rates of mental illness among the homeless and the incarcerated. However, California has made enormous strides to create a state policy which provides adequate services to the mildly, moderately, and severely mentally ill as well as adequate funding for those services through Proposition 63, the Mental Health Services Act, passed in 2004. This paper reviews mental health policy history from Colonial America to the present, paying special attention to JFK's deinstitutionalization in 1963 and the discontents that followed. It takes a special look at California's mental health care policy history and the strides the state has made to better serve the mentally ill.