Careers and academic programs in human services have their roots in 1950s America. One reason is the movement to deinstitutionalize people with mental illness. In other words, they were brought out into the community instead of shut away in mental hospitals.
As more people with mental illness entered society, there grew a need for workers who could attend to their needs. In 1956, the National Institute of Mental Health responded to the situation. It funded the first associate's degree program in human services at Purdue University in Indiana.