Prepared by:  Joseph D Stephens, Former Executive Director, Community Mental Health Center, Inc., Lawrenceburg, IN


As a result of the Community Mental Health Centers Act of 1963, the States were provided the opportunity to develop a State plan for community mental health and to obtain federal grants to establish a system of community mental health centers.  There were some strings attached to the offer of financial assistance.  It was the intention of the federal government that there would be a community mental health center to serve each catchment area having a population of at least 75,000 and not more than 250,000 citizens.  Also, in order to receive a grant to establish a community mental health center, the grant application had to describe a system of services consisting of “five essential services”:  inpatient hospitalization, partial hospitalization, outpatient, 24/7 emergency services and Consultation/Education services.

Early on, Indiana chose to follow the federal model for development of community mental health centers.  The Indiana Department of Mental Health in collaboration with local communities and the Mental Health Association set up a statewide planning process to develop a state plan for community mental health services.  Local communities were empowered to establish locally governed not-for-profit corporations.  These corporations would initially start mental health outpatient clinics.  Later, they would submit grant applications to the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare in order to be designated as full-fledged community mental health centers offering the five essential services to a designated catchment area.  The geographic size of the CMHCs catchment area depended on population density.  Thus, in urban areas a typical CMHC would serve a part of a county (e.g. Lake County), a whole county (e.g. St. Joseph County), a whole county and part of another county (e.g. Marion and surrounding counties) while in rural areas, a CMHC would serve multiple counties.

In order to provide coverage of the entire state population and meet federal requirements, a minimum of 30 CMHCs were required.  The first, Midtown Community Mental Health Center opened its doors in 1969 at Marion County General Hospital, later named Wishard Memorial Hospital. Midtown provided services to largely urban and inner city neighborhoods.  Twenty-nine additional community mental health centers would be developed around the State of Indiana during the next decade and a half.

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