I moved to Raleigh in 1969 and began working for the North Carolina Council on Mental Retardation, now the Council on Developmental Disabilities.
At that time, our state institutions were overflowing with long-term clients.
In fact, I remember when Dorothea Dix Hospital in Raleigh had 3,000 patients and 1,000 employees.
As the years went on, downsizing of all the hospitals became an ongoing occurrence.
Today, Dorothea Dix is down to 300 or fewer patients, and 100 staff, and is continuing to downsize.
Every state hospital can tell you the story.
I am certainly not a believer in long-term institutionalization. Medical research has come a long way in developing effective medications and behavioral therapies.
Most of the mentally ill do not need institutionalization if there are support services in the community that assist in paying for medications, being sure the client is taking the medication, offering job training, finding suitable living arrangements, providing a place to go for day activities, and having access to short term hospitalization for occasional stabilization.
Unfortunately, the necessary continuum-of-care services are slim to none in most communities.
Because of a lack of services, the people who were once in these hospital institutions are now moving into prison institutions.
To get the full picture of what is really going on, click on PBS report.
I warn you, this PBS production tells a very graphic story of what is really happening to our mentally ill and retarded citizens.
This is what those of us in the field projected many years ago would happen, but I did not believe until now.
It is like a bad dream come true.