I don’t believe in dumping
Although deinstitutionalization presented personal and professional challenges, most of the practitioners I interviewed embraced the goals of care in the community. One woman summed it up in seven words: “It was necessary; it was their right.”
None, however, expressed no reservations about the means by which this was achieved, and this same woman, after a long, emotional pause, followed with the qualification, “But sometimes we went too far, too fast.” Most often, these reservations came from the sense that deinstitutionalization was driven by political expediency, and they condemned what they saw to be the inhumane policies and approaches taken by governments concerned primarily with cost-savings.
Closing the mental hospitals was always my ultimate goal, but I thought that it was too soon…. I think we dumped, and I don’t believe in dumping. When the big hospital emptied, the patients were thrown out and there was no machinery in place. Nothing was done for them. [They] just threw them out on the street, filled them with tranquillizers. And that generation just died.