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Psychiatr Serv. 2003 Apr;54(4):501-7.

Factors that explain how policy makers distribute resources to mental health services.

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  • 1Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation, University of Chicago, 7230 Arbor Drive, Tinley Park, IL 60477, USA. p-corrigan@uchicago.edu

Abstract

Advocates hope to influence the resource allocation decisions of legislators and other policy makers to capture more resources for mental health programs. Findings from social psychological research suggest factors that, if pursued, may improve advocacy efforts. In particular, allocation decisions are affected by policy makers' perceptions of the scarcity of resources, effectiveness of specific programs, needs of people who have problems that are served by these programs, and extent of personal responsibility for these problems. These perceptions are further influenced by political ideology. Conservatives are motivated by a tendency to punish persons who are perceived as having personal responsibility for their problems by withholding resources, whereas liberals are likely to avoid tough allocation decisions. Moreover, these perceptions are affected by political accountability, that is, whether politicians perceive that their constituents will closely monitor their decisions. Just as the quality of clinical interventions improves when informed by basic research on human behavior, the efforts of mental health advocates will be advanced when they understand the psychological forces that affect policy makers' decisions about resources.

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