U.S. Federal Drug and Mental Health Policy

How has U.S. federal drug and mental health policy positively and negatively affected mental health and substance abuse in the U.S.?  Use at least 2 policies for each (mental health and substance abuse) to defend your answer.


With the introduction of Mental Health Act of 1946, the United States began to recognize the issue of mental illness in the country and established the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) under the act, which worked to research and raise awareness of those mental health needs in the country. The NIHM introduced the Action for Mental Health which paved the way for the community mental health movement, which would back away from sending individuals with mental illness to state hospitals, a whole special kind of prison, and would focus on community-based prevention and care. The Community Mental Health Centers Acts were passed in 1963 and 1965, making the Action for Mental Health a reality, and these community mental health centers (CMHCs) became funded in order to provide necessary mental health services to patients.

However, almost two decades later, during his presidency, Reagan introduced the Omnibus Budget and Reconciliation Act of 1981 which led to the defunding of CMHCs despite states heavily depending on them to care for the mentally ill. State hospitals continued to push mentally ill patients out of their facilities and made it to where you had to so ill to the point of dangerous and threatening behavior to be readmitted, and once readmitted patients were treated with psychotropic medications and rereleased without any quality care. This inadvertently caused mentally ill individuals to make up a large portion of the homeless population.

Drug abuse has become a dangerous epidemic in America. The United States had originally taken an education and prevention approach to dealing with the increased rates of substance abuse in the country. Individuals with health insurance could easily find their own particular source of treatment, while for individuals who could not afford health insurance would tend to utilize public self-help groups. In 1966, the Narcotic Addict Rehabilitation Act was passed which offered individuals who had drug offenses to partake in treatment programs, and if completed could have shorter incarceration sentences.

The United States under Nixon’s presidency then declared a “War on Drugs” with the Anti-Drug Abuse Acts of 1982 and 1988. The reaction to drug abuse turned away from prevention, education, and treatment and turned to punishment. Many drug users were placed into the prison system where actual drug abuse treatments were basically non-existent.


Karger, H. J., & Stoesz, D. (2013). American social welfare policy: A pluralist approach (7th ed.). New York: Allyn & Bacon.

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