The History of Mental Health Care in Akron

by | Mar 18, 2024 | Addiction, Mental Health, Substance Use

Bridge in Akron, Ohio in Summit County.Nestled in the heart of Summit County, Akron, Ohio, has a rich history in mental health care. From its early days as a bustling industrial city to its present status as a hub of innovation and progress, Akron’s approach to mental health has evolved significantly over the years. Today, organizations like Portage Path Behavioral Health play a crucial role in providing comprehensive mental health services to the community. Let’s take a journey through time to explore the history of mental health care in Akron and how it has shaped the city we know today.   

Early Years: 

In the 19th century, mental health care in Akron was limited and often overlooked. Those suffering from mental illness were often confined to poorhouses or jails, where conditions were deplorable, and treatment was nonexistent. It wasn’t until the mid-1800s that the first efforts to provide specialized care for the mentally ill began to emerge. 

The Progressive Era: 

  The early 20th century brought about a shift in the approach to mental health care, driven by the Progressive Movement’s emphasis on social reform and humanitarianism. Akron saw the establishment of new institutions focused on providing more humane and effective treatment for the mentally ill. This is also around the time Akron’s own Dr. Bob developed Alcoholics Anonymous, by providing a safe place for his clients to come and support each other on their journey to recovery. This set the stage for a revolution in how the world has continued to develop mental health and substance use programing to this day. 

Deinstitutionalization and Community-Based Care: 

  The latter half of the 20th century witnessed a dramatic shift in mental health care philosophy, with the advent of deinstitutionalization. This movement aimed to transition patients out of large mental hospitals and into community-based care settings. Akron embraced this shift, leading to the closure of many large institutions and the expansion of outpatient services. 

Modern Era: 

  Today, Akron boasts a robust mental health care system, with organizations like Portage Path Behavioral Health leading the way in providing comprehensive services to those in need. Portage Path Behavioral Health and other agencies offer a wide range of programs, including counseling, therapy, peer support services, and substance abuse treatment, all aimed at improving the mental health and well-being of the community. 

Looking Ahead: 

  As Akron continues to evolve, so does its approach to mental health care. With a growing emphasis on holistic, community-based care, the future looks bright for those in need of mental health services in Akron. Organizations like Portage Path Behavioral Health and the Summit County ADM Board continue to work together to develop new and innovative programs to better serve the Summit County community, ensuring that Akron remains a beacon of hope and healing for years to come. Programs such as the Summit County Outreach Team (SCOUT) show the dedication and commitment the City of Akron and Summit County have to our community’s access to mental health resources. 


Akron’s journey through the history of mental health care is a testament to the city’s resilience and compassion. From its humble beginnings to its current status as a leader in mental health care, Akron has demonstrated a commitment to improving the lives of its residents. With organizations like Portage Path Behavioral Health and the Summit County ADM Board at the forefront, the future of mental health care in Akron looks brighter than ever. 


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