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. Chet Rogers


Two public facilities for the mentally ill, Michigan Institute for Mental Health and Lafayette Clinic were examined, using a framework provided by Douglas R. Boulter (1983). The basic research question was, why did Lafayette Clinic survive while Michigan Institute did not?

The following research propositions were explored: (1) Organizations that receive strong constituency and media support are more likely to survive than those which do not; (2) Program success or failure is dependent on the decision-maker's perception of the sum of public support; (3) The media serves both as a carrier of opinion and as an influential actor in its own right, and thus impacts on mental health decisions; (4) The decision to maintain or close an agency for the mentally ill (particularly during crises) will, therefore, be influenced by newspaper coverage.

Only the third proposition was not sustained. A content analysis of mental health newspaper articles for the years 1973 through 1983 showed minimal press coverage of institutional programs and negligible media involvement with the two facilities. Out of a total of 887 articles in the Detroit Free Press, Detroit News and Lansing State Journal, 34 mentioned Lafayette Clinic and 28 named MIMH.

Additional research methods included a historical review, administrative case studies, interviews and document analysis. These methods were undertaken to validate and elaborate upon content analysis findings.

Using Boulter's (1983) framework, 17 key actors were found to be initially supportive of Michigan Institute. Only six remained advocates throughout the agency's history. For Lafayette Clinic, in the years before budget reductions, 20 actors or groups were strongly supportive. Fifteen continued to maintain support.

What explains the difference between an agency that remained open and managed to protect its programs during a time of cutback management and one that closed? The conclusion is that decision makers changed their perception of utility and value as manifested by support groups. Therefore, the initial propositions were sustained.

Decisions about agency survival appeared to be politically, rather than programmatically, motivated. Through the use of the Boulter (1983) framework and several alternative methods of gathering and verifying data, an understanding and appreciation of this process occurred.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access