Western State Hospital is a state psychiatric hospital which is licensed and operated by the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services.
The first patient was admitted the morning of July 24, 1828. He was a teacher whose diagnosis was "hard study." A second patient was admitted that afternoon from Goochland County, Virginia, but remained only a few months at the facility before he escaped. The first woman arrived on July 25, and was admitted with a diagnosis of "Religious Excitement."
Shortly after the facility opened, it was filled with patients and the Court of Directors implemented an admissions screening process to limit admissions to only those patients "who were either dangerous to society from their violence, or those who were offensive to its moral sense by their indecency and to those cases of derangement where there is reasonable ground to hope that the afflicted may be restored."
For further reading see books:
- Dr. Francis T. Stribling and Moral Medicine Curing the Insane at Virginia’s Western State Hospital: 1836-1874 by Alice Davis Wood (2004)
- Dorothea Dix and Dr. Francis T. Stribling: An Intense Friendship - Letters: 1849-1874 by Alice Davis Wood (2008)
The facility’s name was changed in 1894 from Western Lunatic Asylum to Western State Hospital. The facility continued to increase in size through the 1950’s and 1960’s with the opening of a second site in 1949-1950. The facility’s patient population eventually increased to above 3,000 at two sites.
Beginning with the Commonwealth’s move toward deinstitutionalization in the early 1970’s, the population declined substantially until, by the late 1970’s, it stood at approximately 1,350. Further reductions were realized over the last fifteen years as hospital programs were related to sister facilities and the communities. A more restrictive criteria for admissions and improved prescreening programs have also been implemented. Substantial improvements in psychopharmacology and community treatment modalities along with earlier intervention have also contributed to reduced census.
In 1978 the University of Virginia (UVA) expanded its affiliation with the hospital providing for joint faculty appointments and the assignment of psychiatric residents and medical students to the facility for training. This program continued to expand with particular highlights in 1985 with the appointment of Dr. Spradlin as the Facility Director at Western State. In 1990, the hospital received the first National Award from the American Psychiatric Association as the exemplary program in Collaborative Services between a public mental health facility and a university.
Western State Hospital has extensive affiliations with colleges and universities involved in all of the major professional groups including. Various staff at Western State Hospital had joint faculty appointments with a number of institutions of higher education; staff with the Department of Psychiatric Medicine interdigitate with hospital programs for the provision of services and educational supervision.