Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Business Administration



First Advisor

Daniel W. Kemper


This thesis examined adults with chronic severe mental illness and the use of legal guardianship executed to protect them from harming themselves or others, while attempting to improve their overall quality of life.

The earliest manifestation of mental health law appeared in the Roman Empire. The Romans established the legal use of surrogates to handle the property and commercial affairs of disabled citizens. By the sixteenth century England had developed standards of supervision by which a guardian might supervise a disabled person. The first guardianship recorded in America was decided under English law in 1637 in Jamestown, Virginia (Goldstein, Alan and Irving Weiner 306).

For much of history persons with mental illness were treated in residential institutions. In recent years the residential populations in long-term mental hospitals and institutions has been reduced. Nationally, the patients who used to receive care in long-term institutions now live in community residences and receive their care from outpatient psychiatrists and general hospitals. When patients are admitted to inpatient wards, treatment plans are focused on acute symptom stabilization and discharge to receive follow-up and care on an outpatient basis (Mechanic 790). This system requires the participation of the patient and has predicated changes in practice, treatment and the law.

The purpose of this research was to investigate the possibility that persons with chronic severe mental illness would experience improved activities of daily living, quality of life, length of occupancy in placements, increased socialization, stabile income and higher rates of treatment and medication compliance. They report fewer hospitalizations, less alcohol and illegal drug use and abuse and fewer criminal legal difficulties.

Thirty-one subjects who had legal guardians were pair-matched to 105 non-guardianship subjects. Ninety-four data points were collected on each subject. Chi Square analysis was conducted in two formulas, traditional and McNemar's formula for small group pair-matched subjects.

Results of the analysis produced considerable evidence to suggest that the hypothesis be accepted and to conclude, within the sample pool, that persons with chronic severe mental illness with resulting poor insight and judgment benefit substantially on all measures from the oversight of a legal guardian.