It was 40 years ago, at the end of June 1967, that deinstitutionalization of persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities began as a national phenomenon in the United States. In June 1967, the annual census of state institutions then conducted by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) indicated that there were 194,650 residents of state institutions for persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities. That was the highest total in history. This NIMH survey of “mental hospitals” for the same period identified an additional 33,850 individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities among the residents of public psychiatric facilities. After 1967, the total U.S. population for persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities in state institutions began to decrease. Figure 1 shows, in 10-year intervals, this decrease over the 40 years of state institutionalization depopulation, from 1967 to 2007. In June 2007, the number of state institution residents with intellectual and developmental disabilities was 158,000 fewer (or 81% less) than 40 years before. Both numerically and proportionally, the most active decade during the 40-year interval was 1977 to 1987, when populations decreased by 72,114 persons, or 43%. Between 1987 and 1997, populations decreased by 42% compared with 33% in the 1997– 2007 decade.
Table 1 shows the patterns over the same periods of time and intervals for each state. It shows notable variations among states. Between 1967 and 1977, Nevada opened its first state institution, and, including Nevada, five states more than doubled their state institution populations. In contrast, during the same period, four states (MN, MT, NE, and WI) reduced the state institution population by more than 50%. The decades following 1977 were notable for the decreasing use of state institutions in all states, although the pace of deinstitutionalization varied greatly from state to state.
Between 1967 and 2007, nine states reduced their state institution populations to zero (AK, DC, HI, ME, NH, NM, RI, VT, and WV). An additional nine states reduced their state institution populations by more than 90% (MN, MI, OR, IN, CO, MT, NY, ND, and AL). All but five states cut their state institution populations by more than 50%, and Georgia and Louisiana nearly did with decreases of 49%. Three states (AR, MS, and NV) had more state institution residents in 2007 than they did when the deinstitutionalization began nationally 40 years earlier, but each did reduce state institution populations between 1987 and 2007 (MS by 13%, AR by 18%, and NV by 62%). In June 2007, five states housed more than 2,000 persons in state institutions for persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities (NY, 2,169; IL, 2,569; CA, 2,757; NJ, 2,995; and TX, 4,884).
(Sources: National Institute of Mental Health. (1969). Patients in public institutions for the mentally retarded, 1967. Washington, DC: Public Health Service; Prouty, R. W., Alba, K., & Lakin, K. C. (Eds.). (2008). Residential services for persons with developmental disabilities: Status and trends through 2007. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, Research and Training Center on Community Living.)