October 28, 2021
Deinstitutionalization began in the 1960s with the closure of beds in psychiatric hospitals and continued for decades until more than 80 per cent of beds in Canada had been closed. The plan was sold to the public on the premise that people could live more productive lives in the community and the introduction of new drugs paved the way for this major mental health reform to happen.
The plan fell apart, however, due to the government’s failure to set up community supports. The mental health clinics and supportive housing programs that were to be opened never materialized and the outreach workers, nurses and social workers to help former patients were never hired.
Sixty years later, those services are still not here, and as a result, the numbers of homeless have grown. An estimated 70 per cent of homeless people we see on our streets today have some type of mental illness.