January 21, 2020

Utah State Hospital

Exterior of Utah State Hospital circa 1900 Exterior of Utah State Hospital circa 1900

Superintendent: Dallas Earnshaw

Website

The Utah State Hospital began as the Territorial Insane Asylum in 1885 at Provo, Utah (which at the time was a days’ travel from Salt Lake City). The bill to create the asylum was introduced in February 1880, and the institution opened its doors to admit patients five years later on July 15, 1885.

The particular site in Provo was some eight blocks from the nearest residence and was separated from the city by swampland and the city dump. The message this reveals about the prevailing attitudes regarding mental illness is unmistakable.

The intervening years, however, have brought many changes: the swamp has been drained, the dump converted into a municipal park, and the city has expanded to the point that there is no longer a stark demarcation of where the “Asylum” begins.

From its origin the purpose of the Hospital was to treat the mentally ill and to return them to a normal level of functioning. In spite of their best efforts, however, in its early days the facility was little more than a human warehouse. In fact, by 1955 the population at the hospital was over 1,500 patients.

Over the years, tremendous advances in psychiatric medicine have changed the role of the Hospital to one of very active (and successful) treatment and rehabilitation.

Today, it is truly a Hospital in every sense of the word.

Furthermore, the Hospital is no longer the primary deliverer of mental health services in Utah; this role changed with the creation in 1969, of community mental health centers. Now residents throughout Utah can receive mental health services in their own community. The Hospital has changed its role from the only mental health treatment facility into a supporting role for the community mental health centers.

Today the Hospital provides 324 beds for Utah’s mentally ill citizens who require treatment in a more structured setting. Treatment is provided to patients ranging from age six years to geriatric age. Specialized programs are offered for children, adolescents, forensic and adult residents.

Since 1986 the Hospital has received full accreditation from the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations, certifying the high quality of the Hospitals environment and treatment programs.

The Utah State Hospital operates under the direction of the Utah Department of Human Services, Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health.

Sources:

Utah State Hospital Website

More information on the Utah State Hospital is available on the blog Healing, Hell and the History of American Insane Asylums and a photo essay blog by Janina Chilton, Utah State Hospital Historian on July 19, 2010.