The purpose of this chapter is to apply structural functional theory and the concept of “unbundling” to an analysis of the deinstitutionalization and community mental…
The purpose of this chapter is to apply structural functional theory and the concept of “unbundling” to an analysis of the deinstitutionalization and community mental health efforts that have shaped the current mental health services environment.
We examine the original goals of the institutional movement, the arguments supporting it, and the functions of the institutions that were created. We then examine the criticisms of that approach and the success of the subsequent deinstitutionalization process, which attempted to undo this process by recreating the hospitals’ functions in community settings. Finally, we address the question of whether the critical functions of psychiatric institutions have indeed been adequately recreated.
Our overview of outcomes from this process suggests that the unbundling of state hospital functions did not yield an adequate system of care and support, and that the functions of state hospitals, including social control and incapacitation with respect to public displays of deviance were not sufficiently recreated in the community-based settings.
The arguments for the construction of state hospitals, the critiques of those settings, and the current criticism of efforts to replace their functions are eerily similar. Actors involved in the design of mental health services should take into account the functions of existing services and the gaps between them. Consideration of the history of efforts at functional change might also serve this process well.