The Alaska Mental Health Enabling Act of 1956 (Public Law 84-830) was an Act of Congress passed to improve mental health care in the United States territory of Alaska. It became the focus of a major political controversy after opponents nicknamed it the "Siberia Bill" and denounced it as being part of a communist plot to hospitalize and brainwash Americans. Campaigners asserted that it was part of an international Jewish, Roman Catholic or psychiatric conspiracy intended to establish United Nations-run concentration camps in the United States.
The legislation in its original form was sponsored by the Democratic Party, but after it ran into opposition, it was rescued by the conservative Republican Senator Barry Goldwater. Under Goldwater's sponsorship, a version of the legislation without the commitment provisions that were the target of intense opposition from a variety of far-right, anti-Communist and fringe religious groups was passed by the United States Senate. The controversy still plays a prominent role in the Church of Scientology's account of its campaign against psychiatry.
The Act succeeded in its initial aim of establishing a mental health care system for Alaska, funded by income from lands allocated to a mental health trust. However, during the 1970s and early 1980s, Alaskan politicians systematically stripped the trust of its lands, transferring the most valuable land to private individuals and state agencies. The asset-stripping was eventually ruled to be illegal following several years of litigation, and a reconstituted mental health trust was established in the mid-1980s.
Famous quotes containing the words mental, health, enabling and/or act:
“Home is my Bethlehem,
my succoring shelter,
my mental hospital,
my wife, my dam,
my husband, my sir,
my womb, my skull.”
—Anne Sexton (19281974)
“To be stupid and selfish and to have good health are the three requirements for happiness, though if stupidity is lacking, the others are useless.”
—Gustave Flaubert (18211880)
“A girl must allow others to share the responsibility for care, thus enabling others to care for her. She must learn how to care in ways appropriate to her age, her desires, and her needs; she then acts with authenticity. She must be allowed the freedom not to care; she then has access to a wide range of feelings and is able to care more fully.”
—Jeanne Elium (20th century)
“Holly: Oh, Brad, Id do my act in clown alley or the horse stop for you. Id do anything if it was just for you.
Brad: Pigeon, look. Out under the sky you know how I feel about you. But under the Big Top one performers just like another to me.”
—Fredric M. Frank (19111977)