Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Public Affairs and Administration

First Advisor

Dr. Peter Kobrak

Second Advisor

Dr. Lyke Thompson

Third Advisor

Dr. Tom VanValey


The objective of this study was to determine what effects the conversion of the Coldwater Regional Mental Health Center from a facility serving developmentally disabled residents to one serving mentally ill residents had on the lives of its employees.

Deinstitutionalization has been taking place nationwide at the same time prisons have been expanding. In Coldwater, Michigan, buildings that were left empty as a result of deinstitutionalizing mentally retarded individuals were taken over by the Department of Corrections to be used as prisons. This action inspired advocates for retarded citizens to call for the closure of the Coldwater Regional Center. Instead of closing the facility, the Department of Mental Health decided to convert it to one serving mentally ill residents. This action resulted in many changes for employees. This study explored what the effects of those changes were.

The model for the study was developed by interviewing a sample of employees and combining their reactions with findings from the literature. A survey instrument was developed and 1,038 people were surveyed. Everyone who was employed at the Coldwater facility at the time of the conversion was surveyed. There were also three comparison groups: new hires at the Coldwater facility and 150 employees each from the Mt. Pleasant Regional Center for Developmental Disabilities and the Florence Crane Women's Correctional Facility. There was a 73.7% return. Cross-tabulation was used for descriptive analysis of the data, while regression analysis was used for explanatory purposes.

The descriptive analysis showed that change in supervision, change in job requirements, retraining requirements, and change in job site during the conversion were primary concerns for employees. The employees' primary suggestion for future conversions was to improve communication between management and staff during the conversion process.

Multivariate analysis showed that employees' feelings, satisfaction, and commitment during the conversion were in many instances related to their feelings, job satisfaction, and commitment afterwards. Change in job site and change in supervision were the primary areas in which management could have an effect.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access