Syracuse Psychopathic Hospital

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Syracuse Psychopathic Hospital
Established 1926
Opened 1930
Demolished 1990 (Original building)
Current Status Active
Building Style Single Building
Location Syracuse, NY
Alternate Names
  • Syracuse Psychiatric Hospital
  • Richard H. Hutchings Psychiatric Center (Current)


A lecture heard in New York City in 1925 inspired the establishment of Syracuse Psychopathic Hospital. Dr. Herman G. Weiskotten, dean of Syracuse University College of Medicine, heard the lecture, in which Dr. C. Floyd Haviland outlined the then proposed Columbia-Presbyterian project and announced the participation of the State Hospital Commission in it. The creation of a medical center at Syracuse was just then under consideration, and Dr. Weiskotten returned home convinced that it should contain a psychiatric unit.

The idea was promptly seconded by the chancellor of the university, Dr. Charles W. Flint, who agreed that if a psychiatric hospital was regarded as essential in the New York City undertaking it was even more necessary at Syracuse, the only large city in the state not served directly by a state hospital. The lack of such a facility was felt not only by the university medical faculty but by the people of Onondaga, Madison, Cortland, Oswego and Cayuga counties, as it was estimated that 300 mental patients came yearly from the area which had a rural population of 500,000 in addition to the city's 200,000. Syracuse had only a four-bed municipal "hospital" to comply with the mental hygiene law prohibiting detention of psychotic persons in jails while awaiting commitment.

The very active Onondaga County Health Association mental hygiene committee lent warm support to the new plan; the State Hospital Commission and the Board of Estimate and Control acknowledged the need for more adequate provision for mental patients; Syracuse University offered to donate land for the purpose; and finally, the state legislature acted to authorize establishment of the hospital by the laws of 1926.

By the end of 1930 construction of the T-shaped, 3-story building was sufficiently advanced so that it was possible to furnished some rooms. On December 26 the first patient arrived. From then on patients were received steadily, although it had not been intended to open the hospital until the following year. Acceleration of admissions was made necessary by the closing, sooner than expected, of the old municipal facility.

With a capacity of 60 beds, the new hospital was designed for the reception of borderline and acutely psychotic persons who were to be studied, diagnosed and treated, and wherever possible returned to the community in a relatively short time. An amendment made to include state institutions in that section of the mental hygiene law pertaining to temporary observation permitted holding patients on that basis for 30 days (later changed to 60 days) without court certification. Few patients have been retained longer than the observation period; if not recovered by that time, they are certified for transfer to larger state hospitals better prepared to handle continued treatment cases, although this has been necessary for only about one-third of the 15,000 patients admitted in the past 25 years. Patients are referred by physicians, social agencies, health officers and judges, and in many instances by former patients who have returned home after making satisfactory adjustments in the hospital.

For many years the hospital has been active in the teaching of the medical students and interns. There is also a regular course of instruction for the residents of the upstate institutions of the Department of Mental Hygiene. On February 18, 1953, this hospital was officially approved for three years of training, thus meeting fully the requirements of the American Board of Neurology and Psychiatry for the diplomat's examination. Our teaching program included facilities for social workers and psychological interns.

The treatment program continues to be emphasized. Individual psychotherapy is used to the largest extent possible. With the discovery of the new tranquilizing drugs, which have been used extensively in this hospital since 1954, fewer patients have required shock therapy, although this former treatment still continues to be of great value.

Occupational Therapy has been a part of the treatment program since the first year, with all patients performing some sort of work and attending classes. The usual arts and crafts have been introduced, and articles are made to be used in the hospital or sold at Christmas time. Suitable recreation has been introduced as part of the therapeutic program. There are frequent parties with card games and dancing. The patients' library, which is also managed by this department, contains several hundred books which are freely used by the patients.

The hospital contains a small laboratory, in addition to which the staff has ready access to the University and County laboratories. Among the subjects of research have been amphetamine therapy, clinical use of barbital preparations, treatment of Parkinsonian syndromes, antabuse therapy in alcoholism, and for the past two years there has been intensive research on the newer drugs Chlorpromazine, Reserpine, Ritalin, and Meprobromate. Quite recently an arrangement was made with the New York State University College of Medicine allowing them the use of one ward for the training of residents and students.

The first clinic at the Syracuse Psychopathic Hospital was conducted in January, 1931. At present clinics are scheduled for every afternoon with three mornings a week being used for intake interviews by the social service department. These clinics are well attended and serve not only discharged patients but people of all ages from the community and also follow-up and after-care cases from the various state hospitals who reside in Syracuse and vicinity. Psychological examinations are given to children and adults referred by psychiatrists and by various agencies. Electroencephalographic services were provided for by the New York State Boxing Commission and the various social agencies when referred by the attending physicians. Consultation services are also provided to various Courts in order to help in the rehabilitation of the offenders. Onondaga County Medical Society, 1906-1956

he Richard H. Hutchings Psychiatric Center is a comprehensive, community-based mental health facility providing an integrated network of inpatient and outpatient services for children and adults residing in the Central New York region. The Center is situated on a twelve building campus in the University Hill district in the heart of the Syracuse medical community. The facility is adjacent to the SUNY Upstate Medical University and is within a five-minute walk to Syracuse University, as well as the city's business district. Guided by the vision “Hutchings Psychiatric Center will develop programs and services to enable persons with psychiatric disabilities to lead successful lives in the community”, the Center has been serving Onondaga, Cayuga, Cortland, Madison and Oswego counties since 1972.[1]