Mental Health Plans:

Many States May Not Meet Deadlines for Plan Implementation

HRD-90-142: Published: Sep 18, 1990. Publicly Released: Sep 18, 1990.

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Pursuant to a legislative requirement, GAO evaluated states' implementation of the State Comprehensive Mental Health Services Plan Act of 1986, which required states to plan and implement community-based care for the seriously mentally ill.

GAO found that: (1) it was too early to fairly assess implementation, since states were not required to fully implement their plans until September 1991; (2) most of the states found the National Institute of Mental Health's (NIMH) planning assistance timely and useful; (3) by March 1990, NIMH had revised and approved all but two state plans; and (4) the act's planning requirements achieved beneficial results, including a greater role for the mentally ill, their families, and mental health planning advocates in the planning process, and more funds for community based services. GAO also found that many states and NIMH officials believed that the September 30, 1990 deadline allowed too little time to substantially implement plans because of: (1) differences between the federal and state cycles for planning, budget, plan approval, and program operation; (2) the uncertainty of funds for implementing the plans; and (3) the major changes many states had to make to their mental health service systems to comply with the act.

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