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1500-009 1 of 3

STATE BOARD OF TRUSTEES OF THE INSANE/

STATE BOARD OF TRUSTEES OF THE DELAWARE STATE HOSPITAL AT FARNHURST/DEPARTMENT OF MENTAL HEALTH

In the late 1800’s, the New Castle County Trustees of the Poor (RG 2230) had erected a facility to house the insane persons of the county, but in 1889 the Legislature felt it would be better to operate the New Castle facility for the benefit of the citizens of the whole state. Thus, for the sum of $75,000, the property was transferred from the custody of the Trustees of the Poor to the custody of a newly created State Board of Trustees of the Insane.1

This new board consisted of nine gubernatorially appointed trustees, three from each county. One-third of the members were to be licensed physicians within the State of Delaware. The trustees were given complete control over the Insane Department and Hospital at Farnhurst, with the power to appoint physicians, stewards, matrons, nurses and servants, and to also provide suitable food, raiment, medicine, and necessities for the comfort and improvement of the inmates.2

Within the Board’s jurisdiction was also placed the Sussex County Insane Department. Persons anywhere in the state could be committed to either of these institutions under any of the following conditions: (1) by order of one Trustee of the Insane, (2) by order of two Trustees of the Poor, or (3) by order of the Chancellor of the State.3

In 1891, the Insane Department and Hospital became the Delaware State Hospital at Farnhurst, with the governing body now called the State Board of Trustees of the Delaware State Hospital at Farnhurst.4 Over the next decade, increasing numbers of applications were made to commit persons with ordinary senility and degenerative ailments. This problem became so pervasive that the Legislature in 1905 provided for two additional physicians just to examine the potential inmates from the City of Wimington.5

Around the turn of the century, pleas to the Legislature for additional buildings went unheeded, so, in 1904, the Trustees took funds from the general hospital fund and erected a new Tuberculosis Building. The Legislature was less than pleased at having their authority usurped and severely chastised the Trustees with new legislation in 1905. The Trustees were flatly prohibited from erecting any new buildings whatsoever, and moreover, any funds received by the Trustees from other than State sources were to be placed in a special emergency fund which was to be used only when appropriated funds were exhausted.6

The 94th General Assembly in 1914 finally appropriated funds for a new building and relations with the Legislature improved on into the 1920’s, with the establishment of a new Mental Hygiene Clinic and a Psychiatric Observation Clinic at the Farnhurst site in 1929.7

During the early part of this century, there also had been increasing concern over the cohabitation of the criminally insane with patients having less severe psychological problems. This dangerous situation arose due to the desire of the New Castle County Workhouse administration to place their criminally insane prisoners in an institution better suited to handle their special problems. However, the admission of these prisoners to the State Hospital created a difficult situation there as well, by jeopardizing the safety of the other patients. Thus, in 1947, the Trustees were permitted to create a Department of the Criminally Insane to segregate these inmates and address more specifically their individual needs.8

1500-009 2 of 3

STATE BOARD OF TRUSTEES OF THE INSANE/

STATE BOARD OF TRUSTEES OF THE DELAWARE STATE HOSPITAL AT FARNHURST/DEPARTMENT OF MENTAL HEALTH

In 1964, again to promote more efficient operations, the State Board of Trustees of the Delaware State Hospital was administratively reorganized to become the Board of Trustees for a newly created Department of Mental Health. With the new reorganization, the Trustees now became responsible for the operations of the Governor Bacon Health Center; the Hospital for the Mentally Retarded at Stockley; the Day Care Center at Dover; and the Mental Hygiene Clinic at Fernhook,9 in addition to the State Hospital.

Two additional trustees were provided for, one an at-large number and the other a qualified psychiatrist. The Trustees were to appoint a Commissioner of Mental Health to oversee the operations of the Department of Mental Health, and appoint superintendents for the Stockley, Farnhurst, and Governor Bacon Facilities, and directors for the Mental Hygiene Clinic and the Day Care Center.10

The government reorganization of 1969 created the Department of Health and Social Services (RG 1500) and one of its branches, the Division of Mental Health, assumed all duties, responsibilities and facilities of the Department of Mental Health. The Trustees were carried over to become members of the Council on Mental Health to serve as an advisory group to the Director of the new Division of Mental Health.11

1500-009 3 of 3

STATE BOARD OF TRUSTEES OF THE INSANE/

STATE BOARD OF TRUSTEES OF THE DELAWARE STATE HOSPITAL AT FARNHURST/DEPARTMENT OF MENTAL HEALTH

1 18 DL, ch. 553.

2 Ibid.

3 Ibid.

4 19 DL, ch. 126.

5 23 DL, ch. 121.

6 23 DL, ch. 122.

7 36 DL, ch. 241 and 242.

8 46 DL, ch. 190.

9 54 DL, ch. 279.

10 Ibid.

11 57 DL, ch. 301.

jrf/June 2, 1988; July 26, 1988; January 3, 1989