George Paulson is an internationally known neurologist who worked in and about state mental hospitals during the revolutionary movement to close those hospitals. He combines his personal observations with historical scholarship to produce a fresh perspective on a major change in society and medicine.
The press describes the book this way:
One of the most significant medical and social initiatives of the twentieth century was the demolition of the traditional state hospitals that housed most of the mentally ill, and the placement of the patients out into the community. The causes of this deinstitutionalization included both idealism and legal pressures, newly effective medications, the establishment of nursing and group homes, the woeful inadequacy of the aging giant hospitals, and an attitudinal change that emphasized environmental and social factors, not organic ones, as primarily responsible for mental illness.
Though closing the asylums promised more freedom for many, encouraged community acceptance and enhanced outpatient opportunities, there were unintended consequences: increased homelessness, significant prison incarcerations of the mentally ill, inadequate community support or governmental funding. This book is written from the point of view of an academic neurologist who has served 60 years as an employee or consultant in typical state mental institutions in North Carolina and Ohio.