The Peak of State Care
last one hundred years the primary
method of treatment for patients has
been plenty of fresh air, good food,
and rest. At the turn of the 20th
century new methods of treatment
were starting to be used. One of the
most popular treatments was
hydrotherapy. This new
Life at the hospital during the early twentieth century was a community affair, the hospital had indeed become a small city. Patients worked all over the hospital as part of their occupational therapy. During the warm months they would care for the grounds, mowing grass and tending to flower beds. In the winter months they would shovel snow from the walkways. Patients worked on the farm, which supplied the hospital with all the food it needed, everything from meat, dairy, fruits, and vegetables were produced. The Central Kitchen stored and prepared all the meals for the patients and staff. Broom making and chair caning took place in the basement of the Chapel and a "toy factory" was established in the basement of the Male Chronic Building. Small shops in other buildings around the hospital produced mattresses, pillows, awning, window shades, and "indestructible" blankets. In 1926 a tailor shop was established, it produced suits, pants, and coats. The practice of patients working at the hospital was called occupational therapy, the work was meant to keep an excited mind busy and it was thought to give meaning to patients that would otherwise be sitting idly somewhere in a dayroom. Most of the items that were made at the hospital were used at the hospital and if there were excess items they would be sold at local markets, the money made was put back into the hospital budget. All this helped to make the hospital self-sufficient, and very little in the way of goods needed to be brought into the hospital.
During World War II many of the male staff were drafted into the military. This caused a 50% shortage of attendants, at the lowest level of employment there were as few as one nurse to 166 patients. In June of 1945 only 26 of the 92 authorized positions on the male side were filled. The manpower shortage resulted in widespread curtailment of services to both the public and patients. The 1950s were a time of expansion at the hospital. The patient population was far higher than the current buildings could handle. In 1951 the Admissions and Hillcrest Buildings are constructed and in 1957 the Eaton Building was completed. Psychotropic drugs were used for the first time in 1952. Up until 1955 certain administrative responsibilities, such as the selection of the hospital Superintendent and the enactment of rules and regulations governing the hospital were vested in the Board of Trustees of the Harrisburg State Hospital. In 1955 an amendment to the Administrative Code authorized the Department of Public Welfare to assume administrative responsibilities for the Harrisburg State Hospital, relegating its Board of Trustees to specific advisory duties. This act also provided for the appointment of a Commissioner of Mental Health in the Department of Public Welfare who assumed overall responsibility for Pennsylvania's mental health program.
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