Mental health civil rights

By 1872 the hospital had become overcrowded. According to its designer, Dr. Kirkbride, 250 patients constituted the maximum capacity for a moral therapy insane hospital. There were now 300, and thirty new patients were added in the next year. Dr. Bryce suggested in a speech to the Medical Association that a new hospital be built in another section of the state. This suggestion was not acted upon, and from this point onwards, Dr. Bryce and his successors were faced with overcrowding.

That same year on August 14th, Dr. Bryce died of Bright’s disease and, at his request, was buried on the south lawn of the hospital. At her death, his wife Ellen Peter-Bryce was buried beside him. On October 6th Dr. James Searcy, Chairman of the Board of Trustees became the second superintendent. The hospital was terribly overcrowded with a patient population of 1,148.

The state legislature established the “Alabama Home for Mental Defectives” in 1919. That same year Dr. William Dempsey Partlow was named superintendent of all state hospitals.

In 1922 the “Alabama Home for Mental Defectives,” later renamed Partlow State School in 1927, was completed. While laws had been in effect for years forbidding Bryce and Searcy hospitals from receiving feeble minded patients, Dr. Bryce and Dr. Searcy had both described the hospitals as “dumping grounds” for the senile, the feeble minded and the paupers from all over the state. The establishment of the “Alabama Home” helped remedy the situation at the insane hospitals.

In 1965 the state legislature passed a law creating the State Department of Mental Health with provisions for appointment of a commissioner and a central office to be located in Montgomery. Dr. Tarwater served as Acting Commissioner along with his duties as Superintendent of Bryce Hospital, Searcy Hospital, and Partlow State School until August 1968.

On April 13, 1972 the Wyatt v. Stickney Court Order established a patient’s individual right to treatment. The court also established thirty-five standards for hospital compliance that would guarantee a patient’s treatment and dignity in a humane environment.