Community Inclusion

View of PhiladelphiaIndividuals with psychiatric disabilities, once confined for year-after-year to life in institutional or other primarily custodial settings, are now part of community life in rural, suburban and urban America.  For many, living in the community has been an enormous benefit, offering the to resume old patterns or establish new roles for themselves beyond their disability.  For others, however, living in the community has  meant only a change in address rather than the chance to develop a sense of genuine participation and integration in the day-to-day life around them.  The Temple University Collaborative on Community Inclusion of Individual with Psychiatric Disabilities seeks to identify the policies, programs, and practices that promote this broader sense of connection to and satisfying engagement with community life.

Community inclusion results from efforts on two broad fronts:  first, the activities of consumers and practitioners together to insure that each individual has every opportunity to participate in community life, and to be valued for his or her uniqueness and abilities, like everyone else; and, second, the affirmative actions of community members – as individuals and in the organizations and associations that are part of any vibrant community life – to welcome those with psychiatric disabilities into the complex web of day-to-day living.

There is a growing body of research that provides the background for the Temple University Collaborative’s focus on community inclusion:  much of the research in the field identifies the startling degree to which people with psychiatric disabilities are isolated from community life, and much of this research can be accessed in the ‘research’ portion of this website; many of the policy and program interventions that promote community inclusion can be found in the ‘training’ section of this website as well.  The Temple University Collaborative – a partnership between Temple, Horizon House, and the National Mental Health Consumers Self-Help Clearinghouse – is funded by the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research to continue this research and expand awareness of innovative exemplary programs.

In this section of the website, however, you can also find discussions about several of the issues that have helped to shape the ‘community inclusion’ approach: the Americans with Disability Act and the Olmstead Decision have created a legal framework for community inclusion; the mental health consumer movement’s advocacy on behalf of self-determination and the need for peer support have had a dramatic impact on consumer lives in the community; and the impact of discrimination toward those with mental illness, and the role of ‘language’ in alleviating or compounding those problems – all these shape the environment for community inclusion. At the same time, community inclusion seeks opportunities for individuals with psychiatric disabilities to participate in all aspects of life in the community, and each life ‘domain’ poses special challenges and offers special rewards.  You can look at the following issues – civic engagement, education, employment, friendships, health and wellness, housing, family roles, recreation and leisure, religion and spirituality, or transportation.