Friday, April 19, 2024

Colonial Williamsburg and Eastern State Hospital Commemorate 250 Years of Mental Healthcare

(Image courtesy of The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.)

WILLIAMSBURG — When The Public Hospital of Williamsburg opened its doors in 1773, it became the first inpatient facility in America devoted exclusively to treating individuals with mental disorders.

Known today as Eastern State Hospital and located outside of the Historic Area of Colonial Williamsburg, the hospital continues to provide mental healthcare for individuals throughout Virginia 250 years later.

In honor of 250 years of mental health history and the tens of thousands of patients and staff whose stories are intertwined with the hospital, Colonial Williamsburg, in partnership with Eastern State Hospital and the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services, will host a series of public events on Thursday, Oct. 12 through Saturday, Oct. 14. including tours, theater programs, lectures and presentations.

“Mental health plays a profound, though often poorly understood, role in the ongoing story of our nation,” said Ron Hurst, Colonial Williamsburg’s chief mission officer and senior vice president for education and historic resources. “Colonial Williamsburg is honored to partner with Eastern State Hospital to commemorate the anniversary of the Public Hospital of 1773 and to invite the community to better understand this complicated aspect of our collective history.”

(Image courtesy of The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.)

According to Colonial Williamsburg (CW), event highlights will include tours of the reconstructed Public Hospital on Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 3-4:15 p.m. and a presentation by Dr. King Davis on Eastern State Hospital’s influence on the development of other hospitals and policies throughout the South on Oct. 13 from 4:40-5:30 p.m. in the Hennage Auditorium.

The commemoration will culminate with an event on the front lawn of Colonial Williamsburg’s reconstructed Public Hospital of 1773 on Francis Street on Oct. 14 at 2 p.m., CW said.

“We are deeply grateful for Colonial Williamsburg’s partnership in commemorating Eastern State Hospital’s legacy of caring for individuals who are living with mental illness,” said Daniel Herr, Eastern State Hospital’s CEO. “Since its inception as the first Public Hospital in the nation, we had a formative role in shaping the understanding of, and public policy around, treating mental health disorders.  In keeping with this robust tradition, this commemoration will also highlight Gov. Youngkin’s key mental health initiative, ‘Right Help, Right Now.’”

“This anniversary, and Eastern State Hospital’s unique place in our country’s history, offer us a chance to reflect on the past, present, and future of behavioral health care in Virginia,” added Nelson Smith, Commissioner of the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services. “We look forward to joining our partners at the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation for a series of events that can help us better understand our history and honor the work of the incredible staff at Eastern State, and across our behavioral health care system, as they strive to get Virginians the right help, right when they need it.”

The Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg will be free and open to the public from Thursday, Oct. 12 to Saturday, Oct. 14 to promote broad access to a wide array of programming related to mental health, CW said. Visit the webpage for a full listing of events.

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