- Volume 39
The patient population of U. S. state mental hospitals has changed drastically since the 1960s, when the deintstitutionalization movement began. This paper is designed to look at what happened to the number of inpatients of state hospitals in California during the last 150 years and, from this, to explore implications for the future of the mental health system in Korea, especially for the viability of mental hospitals. The data had been collected by field research(visits to state hospitals and State Department of Mental Health, and interviews with mental health administrators) and accessing statistical publications and various reports. Since the first state hospital opened in 1851 the statewide inpatient population of individuals who were mentally disabled has grown and peaked at 37,489 in 1959. The number of patients in state hospitals, however, began declining in the early 1960s and was reduced to 10,874 by 1971, and to 4,973 by 1986. As of 1997, there were only 4, 263 inpatients remaining in the state hospital system. This dramatic decrease slowed down somewhat in 1980s and 1990s, but this trend seems irreversible except for the inpatients referred by the court. Now the beds in state hospitals are filled with more and more forensic patients, which constitutes nearly 70% of the total inpatient population. Based on these findings, it is well expected that the number of inpatients of mental hospitals in Korea will also be reduced in a significant way as the community-based mental health care system is gradually replacing the traditional one. Mental hospitals need to introduce more diversified programs for the care of the mentally ill, and concurrently more vigorous aftercare programs are required in the community.