Thirty-four years have elapsed since the passing of the Italian Law 180, the reform law that marked the transition from a hospital-based system of care to a model of community psychiatry that was designed to be an alternative to, rather than to complement, the old hospital-centred services. The main principle of Law 180 is that psychiatric patients have the right to be treated the same way as patients with other diseases and only voluntary treatments are allowed, with a few exceptions that are strictly regulated. The main features and consequences of the Italian reform are initially reviewed; national and local level experiences and epidemiological data are then analysed in order to highlight and disentangle the ‘ active ingredients ’ of the Italian experience. A public health attitude with the capacity to network good practice in service organization by giving voice to successful experiences and promoting health service research, apart from some local services, is still generally lacking. Furthermore, it is still diffi cult to provide an evidence-based reply to the question: can à l ’ Italienne community-care be exported elsewhere?
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