From the Administrator: Mental Health Care: Transforming Our Vision and Our System
Mental Health Care in America—The Federal Action
Agenda: First Steps, released in July, represents
both a vision and a plan. It is both a vision of the
attainability of recovery and a living document that
charts the initial steps for altering the form and function
of the mental health service delivery system (see Recovery
Is Key for Mental Health Action Agenda article).
The Action Agenda is a milestone in the evolution of
our views of mental illness and mental health. This shift
began just 40 years ago, when President John F. Kennedy
signed the Community Mental Health Centers Act, which
aimed to move psychiatric patients out of state hospitals
and into community clinics. President Jimmy Carter continued
the momentum by establishing the President's Commission
on Mental Health in 1977 and signing the Mental Health
Systems Act in 1980.
In 1999, the publication of Mental
Health: A Report of the Surgeon General documented
the scientific evidence that mental illnesses are health
conditions that are diagnosable and treatable.
However, many obstacles to care still remain.
President George W. Bush established the New Freedom
Commission on Mental Health in 2002 to conduct a comprehensive
study of the problems in the mental health system and
to make concrete recommendations. The message of the
Commission's report in July 2003 was unequivocal: Reform
of the mental health care delivery system in the United
States is not enough—a fundamental transformation
The Department of Health and Human Services was charged
with reviewing the Commission's report and identifying
action steps to accomplish this goal, and asked SAMHSA
to lead the effort.
The resulting Action Agenda is particularly noteworthy
in the breadth of collaboration it requires among a broad
array of Federal partners. Simultaneously, the effort
calls for shared responsibility by government at the
state and local levels, the private sector, and consumers
of services and their family members.
More than 25 years ago, when President Carter's commission
released its report, recovery from mental illness was
not the expectation. Today, we know more about mental
illness, mental health, and recovery than ever before.
Now, it is up to us to transform our system of care to
make recovery a reality for everyone.
Charles G. Curie, M.A., A.C.S.W.
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