Community Mental Health Centers (CMHCs) emerged as the result of federal legislation in 1963: Public Law 88-164, The Community Mental Health Centers Act; an overdue response to a critical need. As history has documented, for decades the mentally ill have been scorned, warehoused, and abused. Across the nation, thousands of patients found themselves enduring the indignities and despair associated with the crowded wards of our country’s mental institutions.


The Community Mental Health Centers Act required that an alternative to institutionalization be developed, which provided for early intervention and treatment for both adults and children along with the hope that such a system could ultimately stem the tide of long-term, debilitating mental illness.

Twelve years after the Community Mental Health Centers Act became law, on July 29, 1975, Congress extended its commitment to community mental health and stated in its Amendments, Title III of Public Law 94-63: Section 302 (a) The Congress finds that:

  1. Community mental health care is the most effective and humane form of care for a majority of mentally ill individuals.                          

  2. The Community Mental Health Centers have had a major impact on the improvement of mental health care.                 


In Missouri, Community Mental Health Centers (CMHCs) are designated as Administrative Agents by the Department of Mental Health and are the primary treatment providers for both adults and children in the Department of Mental Health’s Comprehensive Psychiatric Services Division. In accordance with State Statute 632.050 RSMo, these designated centers serve as entry/exit points in each geographic area - into and from the state mental health delivery system - offering a continuum of comprehensive mental health services.

Additionally, the Community Mental Health Centers must be responsive to their respective communities and thus function in both the private and public sectors. Through the years, CMHCs have consistently worked with the business community, schools, the juvenile justice system, disaster response teams, special populations, and numerous government and private agencies in developing a variety of innovative outcome- and evidence-based programs which have been implemented both locally and statewide.

As the nation looks to the future and examines its healthcare policies while debating the various, diverse aspects of numerous reform proposals, CMHCs are well positioned as leaders of managing care in the truest sense. They utilize the continuum of care model which offers consumers the benefits of receiving individualized types and levels of treatment while progressing through a total quality, cost-effective, least restrictive system of care.