60th Anniversary of the Community Mental Health Act

NAMI New Hampshire
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October 31st, 2023, is the 60th anniversary of the Community Mental Health Act, a policy initiative that changed the landscape of mental health treatment in the 20th century and led to the prevalence of today’s community resources.

In 1963, President John F. Kennedy passed the Community Mental Health Act as part of his New Frontier agenda, proposing and funding a network of mental health centers meant to provide care within one’s community, as opposed to in an institution. While our mental health system should have the capacity to address all levels of care, including inpatient psychiatric care at a state hospital, treatment is most effective when delivered in one’s community and should be held as the highest priority. This act was instrumental in laying the groundwork for systems and services in line with that philosophy.

In New Hampshire, we have access to a broad range of community mental health services, including community mental health centers, mobile crisis teams, supportive housing, peer and family supports, and more. These services are crucial in ensuring that individuals at all levels of need can access care in their communities and near their families where they belong, not in an institution. We recognize and applaud continued efforts to fund community mental health services, including recent federal awards to expand certified community behavioral health clinics, and the provisions of the 2023-2025 NH State Budget intended to further fund our state’s mental health services.

As we celebrate the anniversary of this landmark legislation, we are also reminded of the needs our communities continue to experience. We acknowledge that not all the community supports laid out in the original Community Mental Health Act came to fruition, and that deinstitutionalization rapidly outpaced the creation of community resources. As such, and in the spirit of the Community Mental Health Act, NAMI NH continues to encourage further funding, both locally and nationally, for community mental health services, as well as the creation of new policy initiatives to address gaps in care and increase the provision of services within our communities.

In recognition of this anniversary, Dr. Paul Shagoury sat down with us to provide a detailed overview of the history of New Hampshire Hospital. Click here to view the recording.