Alaska State Hospital
|Alaska State Hospital|
|Building Style||Single Building|
Prior to statehood in 1959, there were few mental health services available in the territory of Alaska for individuals who experienced mental illness or developmental disabilities. At the time, mental illness was considered a crime. People with any sort of mental disability who were unable to care for themselves or who could not be cared for by a family member or guardian were charged and convicted as “an insane person at large.” Those convicted of this crime were sent by the federal government to live in Morningside Hospital, a private institution in Oregon. By 1942, more than 2,000 people from Alaska, including very young children, were residing there.
During Alaska’s transition to a state, Congress passed the Alaska Mental Health Enabling Act of 1956 to bring these individuals home. This act transferred the responsibility for providing mental health services from the federal government to the territory of Alaska and ultimately the state, by creating the Alaska Mental Health Trust. To fund it, the state selected one million prime acres of land that would be managed to generate income to help pay for a comprehensive and integrated mental health program in Alaska.