How the 1980’s Affected Mental Health


The Mental Health Systems Act of 1980 was a bill to improve the provision of mental health services and promote mental health throughout the United States. This bill provided marginalized populations-minorities, chronically mentally ill, elderly, children- to have access to crucial private and public mental health and support services. Jimmy Carter signed it on October 7,1980.

The bill defined “community mental health centers” as institutions that provided services to people residing or working in the mental health service area, with the focus on the severely mentally ill. The services from these health centers included:

1. inpatient, outpatient, and emergency services.

2. consultation and education services

3. assistance to courts and public agencies in placing people in treatment facilities

4. specialized treatment for children and the elderly

5. half-way house services

Each center was required to have a

1. Quality Assurance Program ( a program designated to make sure things are going smoothly)

2. A Medical Records Program

3. A Multidisciplinary Professional Advisory Board

4. An administrative unit responsible for providing consultation and education services.

The bill extended funds to Rape Prevention and Control. Furthermore, it authorized the Secretary of State to provide grants to to public and nonprofit entities for rape victim assistance that included counseling,assistance in securing mental health, medical, legal, and social services, and projects to implement methods of rape prevention and victim assistance.


A year after it was passed, the bill was dismantled by the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1981. The Omnibus Act was passed by the efforts of the Reagan Administration to reduce domestic spending. It ended federal funding to mental health community centers, placing the responsibility on state governments. Instead, smaller grants or block grants were given to individual states to fund mental health centers.

Unfortunately, with reduced federal support, block grants have fallen out of favor, and mental health services have been competing with other government programs for a share of state and local tax revenue.

Information courtesy from:

Mental Health Systems Act of 1980 and Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1981.

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