From Snake Pits to Cash Cows

Politics and Public Institutions in New York

By Paul J. Castellani

Subjects: Public Policy, New York State Government, Mental Health
Paperback : 9780791464403, 314 pages, March 2005
Hardcover : 9780791464397, 314 pages, March 2005

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Table of contents

List of Tables


Introduction: The Perseverance and Vitality of Public Institutions

Part 1: Drift and Conflict

1. Fault Lines: 1935 to 1945

2. Babies and Buildings: 1945 to 1959

3. Planning: The Rhetoric of Public Institutions and Community Services

Part 2: Sweeping Away the Old Order

4. Bonding and Construction: The Foundations of Public Institutions

5. The New Politics of Mental Retardation

6. Willowbrook and the Medicaid Intermediate Care Facilities for the Mentally Retarded Program

Part 3: The Big Bang

7. Creating a New Universe of Developmental Services in New York State

8. Deinstitutionalization: Reorganizing and Refinancing Institutions and Community Services

Part 4: Closing and Not Closing Institutions

9. Closing Institutions: The Right Thing to Do

10. Rebranding the Cash Cows: Not Closing Institutions

Conclusion: From Snake Pits to Cash Cows



Explains why public institutions for people with developmental disabilities have persevered despite plans to eliminate them.


Public institutions for people with developmental disabilities continue to operate within New York State, although their very existence has been condemned, and public policies directed their complete closure by the year 2000. From Snake Pits to Cash Cows investigates why these institutions persevere despite virtually universal predictions of their demise. Paul J. Castellani's provocative account spans the years 1935 to 2000, describing decades of conflict and confusion about the role of public institutions. This book demonstrates how and why a convergence of operational, fiscal, and political crises in the mid-1970s resulted in a series of agreements among adversaries that radically changed the political landscape, and reversed the plan to close all public institutions. He also shows why New York's experience has implications and lessons for the study of public policy in the area of developmental disabilities services and for understanding Medicaid policymaking, intergovernmental finance, and human services administration.

Paul J. Castellani is Public Service Professor at the Nelson A. Rockefeller College, University at Albany, State University of New York. He is the author of The Political Economy of Developmental Disabilities.