Editing St Elizabeths Hospital

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During the last few years of Dr. Godding's life and during the short period of Dr. Richardson's superintendency the hospital had rapidly grown; when the large extension for 1000 beds had been completed and was ready for occupancy the problem of the reclassification of patients to meet the new possibilities of housing required to be solved, and it was suddenly borne in upon the management that the hospital had in some way suddenly expanded form an institution of medium size to a tremendous plant.  Dr. Godding had been many years connected with the institution and knew all of its ramifications so that he had not felt keenly the need for newer administrative methods.  Dr. Richardson was so completely occupied with the great problem of building that he had not time and energy to devote to a revision of administrative methods, and when therefore  the new buildings were to be occupied it became apparent that the whole institution required to be placed upon new administrative basis, and that the psychological moment had arrived for undertaking this extensive work.
 
During the last few years of Dr. Godding's life and during the short period of Dr. Richardson's superintendency the hospital had rapidly grown; when the large extension for 1000 beds had been completed and was ready for occupancy the problem of the reclassification of patients to meet the new possibilities of housing required to be solved, and it was suddenly borne in upon the management that the hospital had in some way suddenly expanded form an institution of medium size to a tremendous plant.  Dr. Godding had been many years connected with the institution and knew all of its ramifications so that he had not felt keenly the need for newer administrative methods.  Dr. Richardson was so completely occupied with the great problem of building that he had not time and energy to devote to a revision of administrative methods, and when therefore  the new buildings were to be occupied it became apparent that the whole institution required to be placed upon new administrative basis, and that the psychological moment had arrived for undertaking this extensive work.
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With the occupation of the new buildings the population was redistributed and reclassified.  Tubercular patients were segregated from the others, porches and sun parlors being built for their accommodation; epileptic patients were separately housed; and the problem of classification generally was carefully worked out as best it could be under all the circumstances.
 
  
 
Decline began in the 1950s. Massive institutions came to be seen as a problem, not the solution and mental hospitals began to deinstitutionalize patients. The idea was that they could get personalized treatment in community-based facilities and that new psychiatric drugs would allow them near-normal lives. Many patients ended up homeless after leaving the hospital. In 1987, the federal government deeded St. Elizabeths to the District of Columbia to come up with an alternate use. But the District's mental health program was in receivership, and long-range planning was not a high priority. By 1996, the remaining 850 patients had to cope with medicine shortages, a lack of equipment and a heating system that failed so frequently patients went weeks without showers. Life at St. Elizabeths had regressed to a condition disturbingly similar to those that inspired the creation of the hospital in the first place. The last patients were moved from the west campus in 2002. All became quiet in the once-magnificent center building, the ghostly structure slowly succumbing to time and neglect. It was estimated to cost $50 million to $100 million to bring the buildings on the west campus back up to code. The District of Columbia tried several times to sell the hospital, but each time the deal fell through. With no answer in sight, the federal government took over the west campus again in 2004. The General Services Administration began nailing plywood over windows and shoring up roofs until a tenant could be found.
 
Decline began in the 1950s. Massive institutions came to be seen as a problem, not the solution and mental hospitals began to deinstitutionalize patients. The idea was that they could get personalized treatment in community-based facilities and that new psychiatric drugs would allow them near-normal lives. Many patients ended up homeless after leaving the hospital. In 1987, the federal government deeded St. Elizabeths to the District of Columbia to come up with an alternate use. But the District's mental health program was in receivership, and long-range planning was not a high priority. By 1996, the remaining 850 patients had to cope with medicine shortages, a lack of equipment and a heating system that failed so frequently patients went weeks without showers. Life at St. Elizabeths had regressed to a condition disturbingly similar to those that inspired the creation of the hospital in the first place. The last patients were moved from the west campus in 2002. All became quiet in the once-magnificent center building, the ghostly structure slowly succumbing to time and neglect. It was estimated to cost $50 million to $100 million to bring the buildings on the west campus back up to code. The District of Columbia tried several times to sell the hospital, but each time the deal fell through. With no answer in sight, the federal government took over the west campus again in 2004. The General Services Administration began nailing plywood over windows and shoring up roofs until a tenant could be found.

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