Syracuse Area Hospitals - A History
Syracuse State Psychopathic Hospital
The idea to include a psychiatric unit at the Syracuse University College of Medicine was brought about by Dr. Herman Weiskotten in 1925. This idea was also supported by the chancellor, Dr. Charles Flint. They felt there was a lack of support for mental patients in central New York. At that time it was estimated 300 patients came each year for care from the surrounding counties. Syracuse only had a 4-bed municipal “hospital” to comply with the mental hygiene law that prohibited detention of the mentally ill in jails while awaiting commitment. The Onondaga County Mental Hygiene Committee (subcommittee of the Onondaga Health Association) fully backed Dr. Weiskotten's proposal and it was approved by the end of 1926. The hospital was eventually renamed to “Psychiatric” instead of "Psychopathic" in 1956.
By the end of 1930, the hospital was mainly finished and the first patient was able to move in that December. It was a three story T-shaped building on the corner of Irving Ave and East Adams Street, about where the Golisano Children’s hospital is now. The hospital had capacity for 60 beds and was designed to receive patients who were borderline and acutely diagnosed as “psychotic”. There they were studied and treated and when possible returned to the community. According to the mental hygiene law, patients had to be held for a 30-day observation period (later changed to 60 days) and if not recovered by that time, they were transferred to larger state hospitals better prepared to handle those cases. For the Syracuse Psychopathic hospital that was only necessary for about one-third of the patients admitted. The hospital also allowed for medical students and interns to train and study there.
The treatment program included individual psychotherapy mostly. Tranquilizing drugs started to be used more in the 1950s. Occupational therapy was also administered, with all patients performing some kind of work and attending a class such as arts and crafts. Recreation was also used as part of a therapeutic program. This would include parties with card games and dancing. There was also a library available for the patients to use.
The hospital was used to conduct research as it had a small laboratory and the staff also had access to the University and County laboratories. Some of the subjects researched were amphetamine therapy, clinical use of barbital preparations, treatment of Parkinson syndrome, Antabuse therapy in alcoholism, and intensive research on specific drugs such as Chlorpromazine, Reserpine, Ritalin, and Meprobromate.
Clinics were also held there starting in 1931. They helped serve not only discharged patients, but people of all ages from the community and after-care cases from the various state hospitals in the Syracuse area. Psychological examinations were given to both children and adults referred by psychiatrists.
By 1972, psychiatric services had transferred to the Hutchings Psychiatric Center on Madison Street. The Syracuse Psychiatric hospital building remained until 1990 when it was demolished.
- Onondaga County Medical Society, Vol. 1956, pg. 66-67.
- "The Care of the Mentally Ill in the State of New York." pg. 51. 1944.
- Syracuse Psychopathic Hospital Annual Reports. Upstate Health Sciences Library, Archives and Special Collections.
- Last Updated: Jul 13, 2023 2:44 PM
- URL: https://guides.upstate.edu/hospitalshistory
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