Community mental health centers are subject to a number of pressures that will affect the way centers operate in the years ahead. These influences include a reduction infederal appropriations, the use of block grants to the states, the administration's efforts at deregulation, and the continuing impact of deinstitutionalization. Because of these pressures, changes can be expected in the staffing patterns, catchment-area philosophy, numbers of service mergers and consolidations, degree of competition with the private sector, the role of the states, use of state hospitals, consumer and citizen involvement, and kind and degree of professional advocacy. The author cautions that these trends may lead to decisions harmful to patient care unless careful planning is carried out. Centers of the future may well have to serve fewer clients while maintaining a highly professional staff, a wide range of services, and an increased responsibility for caring for the chronic mentally ill.