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Most mental health funding is not targeted to those who need help the most and we must overhaul our system of care, Doris A. Fuller tells Washington Journal host Steven Scully on C-SPAN.

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The causes and consequences of deinstitutionalization are the subject of Dr. E. Fuller Torrey’s scathing new book, American Psychosis: How the Federal Government Destroyed the Mental Illness Treatment System.

page 1 - american psychosisPublished by Oxford University Press, the book details the forces that led to the Community Mental Health Centers Act of 1956 (CMHCA), the last bill President John F. Kennedy Jr. signed before his assassination. The CMHCA was designed to initiate a grand new era of small, caring community centers in place of the state psychiatric hospital system inspired by Dorothea Dix and other reformers. Instead, the law ultimately dismantled the treatment system for those with the most serious mental illnesses without ever replacing it.

“On staff at the National Institute of Mental Health when the program was being developed and implemented, Torrey draws on his own first-hand account of the creation and launch of the program, extensive research, one-on-one interviews with people involved, and recently unearthed audiotapes of interviews with major figures involved in the legislation” says in its description of the book. “As such, this book provides historical material previously unavailable to the public.”

The book was released in October to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the CMHCA, which Kennedy signed on Halloween day.

“Many now wonder why public mental illness services are so ineffective,” says. “At least one-third of the homeless are seriously mentally ill, jails and prisons are grossly overcrowded, largely because the seriously mentally ill constitute 20 percent of prisoners, and public facilities are overrun by untreated individuals. As Torrey argues, it is imperative to understand how we got here in order to move forward towards providing better care for the most vulnerable.”

Read an excerpt from American Psychosis.

Purchase a copy of the book here. All royalties from American Psychosis have been assigned to the Treatment Advocacy Center.

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