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Posted December 10, 2013
I'm usually one who defends the government and roots for federal policies that help the poor and middle class, so it's embarrassing and infuriating to read about the mental health policies of the last 50 years. I lived through the times Torrey writes of, as a state mental health social worker in the state of Georgia for fifteen years 1967-1978. Then I began teaching. My experience of mental health programs in the beginning of my career there is all positive, with Lester Maddox heroically bringing the state up to date. I know we wasted money, but things were going well until we began cutting out state programs, and stopping progress of some that were just getting started. Torrey was at NIMH when this was happening and he details that end of what was going on. It's really even worse than I thought. Torrey writes of federal policy from the 1940s to the present in a fast and interesting way. I liked the part where he listed 13 innovative programs in 13 separate states that could have given direction to the planners of federal policy; but they paid no attention to these programs. One was Fountain House, which is one of the best. At the end of the book Torrey cites the clubhouse model and the one that would probably best meet the needs of seriously mentally ill people in the community. I wished he had said more about the Recovery Model, which is in vogue. He mentions it but it would have been good to get a more in depth analysis of the New Freedom Commission and its aftermath since 2003. Torrey has little hope for anything useful coming out of Washington. That's depressing.
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