Planning for Community Mental Health Centers: The Performance Approach
A major purpose of this project has been to find a way to allow local groups to set the standards by which the federal government will administer and fund mental health building programs in their area. In 1963, when Congress made large amounts of money available to build Community Mental Health Centers, the administrators of the CMHC buiIding program proposed that all new mental health centers be exempted from any federal building standards, especially those of hospitals. They felt, first of all, that the CMHC should not be institutional, "hospital-like" buildings; they might in some cases be just a set of services carried out by existing community elements. Second, that they could not anticipate what programs imaginative professionals in the community might want to run. In principle, then, they used few standards, and emphasizing the good judgments of their own review panels and consultant staffs in the hope that local applicants for funds would deinstitutionalize their operations and be innovative, though a few applicants did develop community-oriented and innovative programs, many did not. In fact, many of the proposed programs and facilities made it clear that NIMH's goals were not understood at the local level even though a mechanism existed for advising and consulting local professionals.
It became obvious that this mechanism, the Architectural Consultation Section, could not keep up with the demand for their services with a professional staff of one senior architect and several young designers. In the face of this and other problems such as the stringency of local codes and the difficulty of defining catchment area, the Architectural Consultation Section discussed with members of the National Bureau of Standards a way to set up "standards" and documentation for their advice which could amplify their capability to meet the local level demands.
In response, the National Bureau of Standards recommended a system for improving the planning process. Instead of proposing a "standard" for buildings, they developed a "standard" for the planning process. The conceptual basis and techniques for doing this stemmed from work being done at the National Bureau of Standards on performance specification techniques.