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16 Harvard Journal on Legislation 853 (1979)


Under the aegis of President John Kennedy, Congress first began to concern itself with the needs of the mentally ill over two decades ago. Bills providing for community mental health centers and congregate housing have appeared subsequently to attempt to expedite integration of the mentally ill into community life. These congressional mandates, however, have met with reluctance-if not hostility. While federal law makers have been the champion of deinstitutionalization, they have placed responsibility for implementation of their programs on the state and local levels. There, local governmental authorities have reacted defensively to exclude the mentally ill from their neighborhoods, primarily by exclusionary zoning. In this Note, Ms. Schmedemann argues that state legislatures must endeavor to fu1Jill the broad mandates of deinstitutionalization set out by Congress. To that end, she proposes creation of statewide mental health agencies. Such programs, says Ms. Schmedemann, would not only assure federal financial assistance, but set up uniform land use patterns on the state level to avoid parochial local efforts to exclude group residences for the mentally ill.