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Psychiatr Serv. 2009 Sep;60(9):1198-202. doi: 10.1176/

Four-year follow-up of long-stay patients settled in the community after closure of Italy's psychiatric hospitals.

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  • 1Department of Mental Health, San Luigi Gonzaga Hospital, University of Turin, ASL TO3, 10 Regione Gonzole, Orbassano-Torino 10043, Italy.



This study reports on the final phase (1996-1999) of closure of Italy's psychiatric hospitals. In this phase the last group of patients was resettled in community-based care. These patients were particularly difficult to resettle, and many hospital staff considered their discharge impossible or inappropriate. Shorter-stay inpatients who were previously resettled in community facilities showed improvement in quality of life and socialization and apparent stability of psychotic symptoms. Compulsory resettlement, implemented by community-based practitioners, provided an opportunity to determine whether it could be considered positive for all patients.


A total of 176 patients were discharged in 1998 from two psychiatric hospitals in Northern Italy until 2002. All patients had been hospitalized for more than 20 years (median stay of 37 years). Patients were resettled in sheltered communities with 24-hour staff (N=101), in apartments with daily support (N=24), in residential health care facilities (N=49), and to their previous homes (N=2). Follow-up evaluations were at three and six months and then yearly (total of six). Psychological condition was evaluated with the 18-item Brief Psychiatric Rating Scale. Autonomy and relational skills were assessed with scales developed for the closure project. Analyses of variance were used to assess data.


Clinical condition steadily improved and substantial improvements were noted in autonomy, socialization, and expression of volition. No worsening occurred in any category.


Even among patients with very long hospital stays, resettlement in community-based care and changes in the social framework can have positive results in psychological and social functioning and quality of life.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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