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Featured Article Of The Week

Austin State Hospital


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Austin State Hospital was the first state facility of its kind built west of the Mississippi. In 1856, the governor of Texas signed a bill providing for the establishment of the Texas State Lunatic Asylum. Construction started in 1857, and the first patients were admitted in 1861. The facility was renamed the Austin State Hospital (ASH) in 1925.

Today, this original building serves as the administration building for a modern, innovative facility providing psychiatric care to a 38-county region in Central Texas. ASH admitted over 4400 patients in the fiscal year 2006, with about the same number of discharges, and has an average daily patient census of 292. The focus of treatment is stabilization of acute psychiatric illness and return to the community.

The old Texas State Lunatic Asylum, which now houses the administrative staff of the Austin State Hospital, is the third oldest standing public building our state. With its completion in 1861 in the lush countryside north of Austin, the hospital stood as a beacon of hope and tolerance for the treatment of the mentally ill.

The asylum movement in the United States and Europe reflected the belief that people recently diagnosed with mental ailments could regain their sanity in an idealized environment free from the stress of everyday life. Asylums strived to provide a healthy diet, exercise, fresh air, adequate rest, a strict daily routine, social contact, and a kind but firm approach. This humanitarian philosophy marked a vast leap forward from earlier theories that mental illness stemmed from demonic possession and proscribed treatments such as flogging and cold water to drive out the demons. Texas modeled its asylum after an innovative program developed in Philadelphia by Dr. Thomas Kirkbride. The Philadelphia maverick had pioneered new, progressive treatments for the mentally insane, including behavior modification, drug therapy and an unrestrictive environment. Click here for more...