This paper traces the development of theory and public awareness of mental health from 1900 to 1960, with particular stress on the rise of social psychiatric models and the impact of events in and around World War Two. The federal legislative history of the Community Mental Health Center (CMHC) program through 1976 is then outlined with regard to particular social problems (e.g., alcoholism) and to domestic politics as they influenced the program's regulations and mandates. A brief critique of the CMHC program from both viewpoints follows, with emphasis on poor administration, lack of community control, and poor evaluation and accountability. This is the basis of an argument for a more egalitarian, explicitly political viewpoint and methodology as a start toward solving problems that chronically afflict the mental health system.

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