A New Vision of Public Mental Health: Creating a Legally Enforceable Entitlement to Voluntary Mental Health Services and Supports

Michael Allen, J.D., Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law

The public mental health system in most states is dysfunctional. Increasingly, it rations care in such a way that people with serious mental illnesses must 'hit bottom' before receiving the services and supports they need to live successfully in the community. In developing and disseminating its model law, An Act Providing a Right to Mental Health Services and Supports, the Bazelon Center has set out to reshape the debate about mental health system reform. The model law seeks to transcend the age-old debate about inadequate funding by providing a legally enforceable entitlement to recovery-oriented mental health services and supports, in sufficient amount, duration, scope and quality to support recovery, community integration and economic self-sufficiency. The model law seeks to prohibit neglect by the mental health system and to empower people with mental illnesses to be full partners in their treatment and recovery.

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