Community Mental Health Act anniversary marked

Fifty years ago, President Kennedy signed the Community Mental Health Act, a s landmark bill that changed America's mental health policy and much more.
October 19, 2013 7:00:44 AM PDT
Fifty years ago, President Kennedy signed the Community Mental Health Act, a s landmark bill that changed America's mental health policy and much more.

Fifty years ago is really not a long time. Although there are more services in the community for people with mental illness, there's still work ahead.

" Prior to the bill being signed 50 years ago, consumers were warehoused very unfairly in large congregate settings," said Eileen Durkin, CEO of C4, a comprehensive provider of behavioral health services for people with mental illness. "The bill allows consumers to receive services in the community."

"There are more services in different varieties," Durkin added.

However, there is still stigma around mental illness.

"People are still viewed as having a moral failing of they have mental illness," Durkin said.

Patrick Kennedy and many other people with mental illness are working to change this.

"He has really taken the lead in showing people this is what mental illness looks like. You can have a mental illness, and you can be productive," said Durkin.

Heather Stahnke and John Finley have benefitted from the Community Mental Health Act.

Heather has been coming to C4 for 12 years.

"I was depressed. I was having a lot of anger outburst. I actually was feeling suicidal, as well. So, I started coming here, and C4 is a large reason why I'm still here on this planet," said Heather. "I went from being really severely depressed every single day, really not wanting to, you know, get up in the morning to now, I've been married happily for 14 years. I help out part time at a school."

"I come here once a week, and I get clinic because I hear voices and see things and the medication I take helps me to deal with reality," said John.

Without the Community Mental Health Act and C4, John would still be living in a nursing home.

" We really need to de-stigmatize mental illness and treat it like any other illness and get the resources that are needed to people at the right time in the right way in the right place," said Durkin.

Next week in Boston, a two-day conference will be held in honor of the 50th anniversary of signing of the Community Mental Health Act. For more information on C4 and the Community Mental Health Act go to www.c4chicago.org and www.thenationalcouncil.org.


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