NIH 1999 Almanac/The Organization/NIMH/      

National Institute of Mental Health : Important Events in NIMH History

1946--On July 3 President Truman signed the National Mental Health Act which called for the establishment of a National Institute of Mental Health.

The first meeting of the National Advisory Mental Health Council was held on August 15. Since no Federal funds were available, the Greentree Foundation financed the meeting.

1947--On July 1 the PHS Division of Mental Hygiene awarded the first mental health research grant (MH-1) entitled "Basic Nature of the Learning Process" to Dr. Winthrop N. Kellogg of Indiana University.

1949--On April 15 the NIMH--one of the first four NIH institutes--was formally established.

1955--The Mental Health Study Act of 1955 called for "an objective, thorough, nationwide analysis and reevaluation of the human and economic problems of mental health." The resulting Joint Commission on Mental Illness and Health issued a report, Action for Mental Health--the background for President John F. Kennedy's subsequent special message to Congress on mental health.

1961--Action for Mental Health, the final report of the Joint Commission on Mental Health and Illness, was transmitted to Congress. A 10-volume series, it assessed mental health conditions and resources throughout the U.S. "to arrive at a national program that would approach adequacy in meeting the individual needs of the mentally ill people of America."

1963--President Kennedy submitted a special message to Congress on mental health issues, which ultimately culminated in the Mental Retardation Facilities and Community Mental Health Centers Construction Act, beginning a new era in Federal support for mental health services.

1965--During the mid-1960's NIMH launched an extensive attack on special mental health problems. Part of this was establishment of centers for child and family mental health, crime and delinquency, minority group mental health problems, schizophrenia, urban problems, and later, rape, aging, and technical assistance to victims of natural disasters. The mental health centers staffing amendments authorized grants to help pay the salaries of professional and technical personnel in Community Mental Health Centers.

The Joint Commission on Mental Health of Children was established by Congress to recommend national action for child mental health.

Alcohol abuse and alcoholism did not receive full recognition as a major public health problem until the mid-1960's, when the National Center for Prevention and Control of Alcoholism was established as part of NIMH; a research program on drug abuse was inaugurated within NIMH with the establishment of the Center for Studies of Narcotic and Drug Abuse.

1967--NIMH separated from NIH and was given bureau status within PHS by a reorganization effective January 1. However, NIMH's intramural research program, which conducted studies in the NIH Clinical Center and other NIH facilities, remained at NIH under an agreement for joint administration between NIH and NIMH.

On August 13 DHEW Secretary John W. Gardner transferred St. Elizabeths Hospital, the Federal Government's only civilian psychiatric hospital, to NIMH.

1968--NIMH became a component of PHS's Health Services and Mental Health Administration (HSMHA).

1970--Dr. Julius Axelrod, an NIMH researcher, won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for research into the chemistry of nerve transmission for "discoveries concerning the humoral transmitters in the nerve terminals and the mechanisms for their storage, release and inactivation." He found an enzyme that terminates the action of the nerve transmitter, noradrenaline in the synapse and which also serves as a critical target of many antidepressant drugs.

In a major development that has reaped untold benefits for people suffering from manic-depressive illness (bipolar disorder), FDA approved the use of lithium as a treatment for mania, based upon NIMH research. This also led to immense savings in annual costs and a sharp drop in inpatient days and suicides for people with this serious mental illness.

Also during this year, the Comprehensive Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism Prevention, Treatment, and Rehabilitation Act established the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism within NIMH.

1972--The Drug Abuse Office and Treatment Act established a National Institute on Drug Abuse within NIMH.

1973--NIMH temporarily rejoined NIH on July 1 with the abolishment of HSMHA.

NIMH went through a series of organizational moves, first temporarily rejoining the NIH on July 1 as a result of the abolishment of HSMHA. Then, the DHEW secretary administratively established the Alcohol, Drug Abuse, and Mental Health Administration (ADAMHA)--composed of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, the National Institute on Drug Abuse, and NIMH--as the successor organization to HSMHA.

1974--ADAMHA was officially established on May 4 when President Nixon signed P.L. 93-282.

1975--The community mental health centers program was given added impetus with the passage of the CMHC amendments of 1975.

1977--President Carter established the President's Commission on Mental Health on February 17 by Executive Order No. 11973. The commission was to review the mental health needs of the Nation and to make recommendations to the President as to how best meet these needs.

1978--The Report to the President from the President's Commission on Mental Health was submitted.

1980--The Epidemiologic Catchment Area (ECA) study, a unique and massive research effort in which more than 20,000 persons were interviewed, began. The field interviews and first wave analyses were completed in 1985. Data from the ECA provide an accurate picture of rates of mental and addictive disorders and services usage.

The Mental Health Systems Act--based on the report from the President's Commission on Mental Health and designed to provide improved services for the mentally ill--was passed.

1981--President Reagan signed the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1981. This act repealed the Mental Health Systems Act and consolidated ADAMHA's treatment and rehabilitation service programs into a single block grant that enabled each State to administer its allocated funds. With the repeal of the community mental health legislation and the establishment of block grants the Federal role in services to the mentally ill became one of providing technical assistance to increase the capacity of State and local providers of mental health services.

Dr. Louis Sokoloff, an intramural NIMH researcher, received the Albert Lasker Award in Clinical Medical Research for developing a new method of measuring brain function that contributes to basic understanding and diagnosis of brain diseases. His technique, which measured the brain's utilization of glucose, led to the development of the PET scanner, which produces color images showing glucose utilization in the living, functional brain.

1987--Administrative control of St. Elizabeths Hospital was transferred from the NIMH to the District of Columbia. NIMH retained research facilities on the grounds of the hospital.

1989--Congress passed a resolution later signed by President Bush, proclamating the 1990's as the "Decade of the Brain."

The NIMH Neuroscience Center and the NIMH Neuropsychiatric Research Hospital, located on the grounds of St. Elizabeths Hospital, were dedicated on September 25. 1992--Congress passed the ADAMHA Reorganization Act (P.L. 102-321), in which ADAMHA was abolished and the research components of NIAAA, NIDA and NIMH rejoined NIH. The services components of the institutes became part of a new PHS agency, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

The return to NIH and the loss of services functions to SAMHSA brought about a realignment of the NIMH extramural program administrative organization. New offices were created for research on Prevention, Special Populations, Rural Mental Health and AIDS.

1993--NIMH established the Silvio O. Conte Centers program to provide a unifying research framework for collaborations to pursue newly formed hypotheses of brain-behavior relationships in mental illness through innovative research designs and state-of-the-art technologies.

NIMH established the Human Brain Project to develop, through cutting-edge imaging, computer, and network technologies, a comprehensive neuroscience database accessible via an international computer network.

1996 and Beyond--As NIMH sets out to develop a Strategic Plan for Brain and Behavioral Research in the new millennium, it embarks from a scientific and administrative platform that has been refined and strengthened significantly over the past several years. Specific recent initiatives and accomplishments that build a base for the NIMH priority setting process include:

  • NIMH, with the NAMHC, initiated systematic reviews of a number of areas of its research portfolio, including the genetics of mental disorders; epidemiology and services for child and adolescent populations; prevention research; clinical treatment and services research. At the request of the NIMH director, the National Advisory Mental Health Council established programmatic groups in each of these areas. NIMH has developed research plans for implementing the recommendations of these Workgroups.
  • Peer Review Integration in Neuroscience, Behavioral Science, and AIDS--NIMH initiated planning for integration of the Institute's peer review system for neuroscience, behavioral and social science and AIDS research applications into the overall NIH peer review system.
  • Extramural Program Reorganization-- NIMH realigned its extramural organizational structure to capitalize on new technologies and approaches to both basic and clinical science, as well as immense changes that have occurred in health care delivery systems, while retaining the Institute's focus on mental illness. The new extramural organization consists of three research divisions: Basic and Clinical Neuroscience Research; Services and Intervention Research; and Mental Disorders, Behavioral Research and AIDS.
  • NIMH has renewed its centers program to focus on current science and public health need.
  • NIMH has refocused career development resources on early careers and adding new mechanisms for clinical research.
  • Childhood Mental Disorders Research Prioritization--NIMH increased the priority placed on research on childhood mental disorders and clinical neuroscience and initiated efforts to expand research in these areas.
  • Intramural Research Program Revitalization--The NIMH conducted a review of the role, size, and cost of the institute's intramural research program (IRP). The Intramural Research Program planning committee recommended continued investment in the IRP and recommended specific administrative changes, the implementation of which was initiated immediately by the institute.
  • Implementation of Human Subjects Protection in Clinical Research--NIMH expanded its efforts to safeguard and improve the protections of human subjects who participate in clinical mental health research.
  • NIMH has considerably strengthened its efforts to include the public in its priority setting and strategic planning processes, and has institute a variety of approaches in which to insure increased public participation.
  • NIMH has included members of the public on its scientific review committees reviewing grant applications in the clinical and services research areas.
  • The NIMH expanded and revitalized its public education and prevention information dissemination programs, including information on suicide, eating disorders, and panic disorder, in addition to the ongoing Institute educational program, Depression: Awareness, Recognition, and Treatment (D/ART). NIMH has also launched an initiative to educate people about anxiety disorders, to decrease stigma and trivialization of these disorders, and to encourage people to seek treatment promptly.
  • NIMH, in consultation with the NAMHC, undertook a renewal of the institute's research centers program to enhance the focus on current science and public health need.
  • NIMH refocused career development resources to provide more support for early career training and added new mechanisms for clinical research.
  • The NIMH Neuroscience Center/Neuropsychiatric Research Hospital was relocated from St. Elizabeths Hospital in Washington, D.C. to the NIH Campus in Bethesda, Md., in response to the recommendations of the 1996 review of the NIMH Intramural Research Program by the IRPPC. 1999--The extramural components of NIMH moved from the Parklawn Building in Rockville, Md., to the new Neuroscience Center at 6001 Executive Blvd., Bethesda, MD 20892.


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