Moving care from hospitals to the community

These ideas were groundbreaking in the 1950s, when the default treatment for mental illness was hospitalization in an asylum. In 1957, more than 36,000 people lived in California’s state hospitals, and many were admitted without due process. 

Over time, research showed that institutional treatment was ineffective and even harmful for many people, and public opinion about mental illness began to change. Meanwhile, scientists developed medications that allowed more people to receive treatment in their communities. 

In the late 1950s, lawmakers and health care providers started to remake the system from hospital-based care to community-based care. This model is based on two key ideas: Most people can receive mental health care in the community setting. And offering these services in the community helps many people seek treatment sooner and achieve a fuller recovery.

California legislators enacted the Short-Doyle Act in 1957. This law transformed the funding and provision of mental health care by providing matching state funds. In 1968, the Lanterman-Petris-Short Act (LPS) expanded funding and required California counties with over 100,000 residents to launch mental health programs. 

LPS also required a judicial hearing to determine whether a person could be involuntarily hospitalized. Between 1957 and 1984, the California state hospital population dropped 84%. 

Our roots in Santa Clara County

Amid these sweeping changes in California’s mental health care system, three Santa Clara County agencies emerged as the forerunners of Momentum for Health:

Avenues to Mental Health

Founded in 1953 as a Rehabilitation Planning Committee for Agnews State Hospital, Avenues to Mental Health was a pioneer in behavioral health care. Avenues opened California’s first “halfway house” and first co-ed residential program—the earliest alternative to mental hospital admission. In fact, Avenues was the subject of a five-year research study under the National Institutes of Mental Health about the effectiveness of residential treatment. 

Miramonte Mental Health

Launched in 1962, Miramonte began as a day treatment center in Palo Alto. Its impactful programs included the Family Group Project for families of those with mental illness, a satellite housing program to assist with re-entry into the community, and vocational and employment services program to help clients return to work.

Community Companions

Community Companions began in 1973. It grew out of two other organizations, Community Friends and Companions, that paired volunteers with people who had a serious mental illness, fostering friendships and support systems. 

Community Companions focused on the downtown and east side of San Jose, offering a large outpatient mental health program, Mission Valley House and mobile clinic. In 1996, it merged with Perma Housing, a local mental health agency providing housing options for people with mental health conditions.

Linking arms to expand care

By the late 1990s, the Santa Clara County mental health care system had grown significantly. The system was becoming fragmented, with four agencies in the county doing similar work. 

In 1997, Avenues to Mental Health, Miramonte Mental Health, and Community Companions merged to become Alliance for Community Care. The merger allowed the new organization to serve our community more effectively, by:

  • Delivering more accessible, culturally competent, innovative services 
  • Strengthening quality improvement, operational efficiency, and staff training
  • Enhancing community education efforts

Alliance for Community Care continued to serve our community’s needs for the next decade. In 2007, we rebranded to Momentum for Mental Health, reflecting our clients’ courage and determination to move forward through recovery and beyond.

Meeting our community’s changing needs 

At every stage of our history, Momentum has adapted our programs to fit our community’s changing needs.

Throughout the 2010s, we expanded to provide care for co-occurring conditions, offering both mental health and substance use treatment. Momentum opened our Addiction Treatment Services program in 2020. With this change in services, our name changed to Momentum for Health, matching our focus on the overall health and well-being of our clients. 

Today, Momentum for Health is one of Santa Clara County’s largest providers of behavioral health services. We offer a range of programs for both adults and youth, acknowledging that people can and do recover at any stage of life. 

Looking ahead, we’re building on our legacy of innovation, with new, evidence-based treatment options and whole-person care. We also continue to advocate within our community, breaking down stigmas around behavioral health conditions and fostering greater acceptance. Just as we did so many years ago, we partner with each client at every step of their recovery and beyond.