THE catchment area—the area containing the population for which a community mental health service unit has responsibility—is a key concept of community psychiatry. The service unit is required to provide or arrange service for every area resident in need. Equivalents of catchment areas—police precincts, school districts, fire districts, health districts, etc—have been successfully used for many years by other types of agencies. State mental hospitals have long had catchment areas. The recent innovation has been in requiring that local mental health services—the agencies best suited and best situated to provide emergency care—have catchment areas.
The use of catchment areas is intended to make it easy for persons in need of service to obtain care. Otherwise, someone interested in obtaining care often has to make many inquiries to find which agency accepts persons with problems such as his. Once he makes application to the proper
Zusman J. Design of Catchment Areas for Community Mental Health Services. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1969;21(5):568-573. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1969.01740230056008