Documentation Priority Descriptions and Potential Records
The issue: Mental health care services have been heavily affected by federal, state, and local legislation. Legislation drives funding, which generally determines or has a major affect on the extent and type of treatment and services provided. New York was among the first states to determine that providing mental health services was a governmental responsibility; it also has had and continues to have major roles in research, diagnosis, and treatment. As a result, federal legislation in this area has a massive impact on New Yorkers. New York's own legislation is often ahead of, and influences, the development of federal legislation; similarly it affects an enormous number of people, institutions, and service providers. Fewer than 25 collections statewide document the development of mental health policies and legislation in New York.
Goal: To document State initiation, development, and implementation of legislation defining and funding mental health services including:
- 19th century laws such as the 1827 "Act Concerning Lunatics" and the State Care Act of 1890
- 20th century laws such as the 1954 Community Mental Health Act, the 1927 Mental Hygiene law, and its 1977 recodification.
- The 1973 Unified Services Act
- De-institutionalization, its genesis and consequences
- Key issues such as recipients civil rights, forced versus voluntary commitment, involuntary outpatient commitment ("Kendras Law").
Goal: To document the initiation, development, and implementation of federal legislation influencing and funding mental health services in New York including:
- The Mental Health Act of 1946, the Mental Health Study Act of 1955, and the Mental Health Act of 1975
- Federal funding agencies, including the National Institute for Mental Health
Goal : To document the initiation, development, and implementation of local legislation influencing and funding mental health services:
Goal: To document efforts to influence and respond to laws, regulations, policies, and procedures by stakeholder groups such as:
- Mental health workers
- Recipients of care and consumer/survivor/ex-patient groups
- Families of people diagnosed with psychiatric conditions
Goal : To document other influences on mental health policy in New York State:
- Pharmaceutical companies
- Print and broadcast media
- Police, INS, Selective Service
- National advocacy organizations
While laws and regulations themselves are documented in the historical record, the ideas, processes and activities that resulted in the passage and implementation of laws and regulations are almost absent from accessible archives.
Where to look for more records (preliminary suggestions only)
- Records of relevant legislative committees, committee members, and chairs at the state and local levels
- Records of lobbying and advocacy organizations, the New York State Lobbying Commission
- Records of politicians campaign positions and policy statements in office regarding mental health
- Minutes, publications, and correspondence of stakeholder organizations and individuals related to mental health policy and legislation
- Newspaper and other media accounts, letters to the editor, editorials