On March 8, 1882, the Mississippi State Legislature approved enabling legislation to establish the East Mississippi State Insane Asylum. This came about largely due to the efforts of Miss Dorothea Dix, a champion for the mentally ill in the United States. The city of Meridian purchased and donated 560 acres of land for the construction of the facility. The asylum opened its doors for service in January of 1885, with a 19 year old man from Meridian as the first Individuals Receiving Services(IRS). In the years 1893 and 1894, three native magnolia trees and three Japanese magnolia trees were planted in front of the Administration Building. These trees make a beautiful entrance to the hospital even today. The name of the institution was changed from East Mississippi State Insane Asylum to East Mississippi Insane Hospital in 1898, and finally to East Mississippi State Hospital in the early 1930s, perhaps reflecting changes in attitudes toward the mentally ill nationwide. During the early years the hospital was almost self-sufficient with farming facilities, a hog farm, a cattle farm, a dairy barn, a poultry plant, and orchards of peach, apple, pear and pecan trees. A canning plant was built to process the produce. In the mid-1950s, the hospital realized much progress toward becoming a modern psychiatric hospital. Since its beginning, the hospital had provided for only custodial purposes but during the 1950s it began to develop treatment services for the IRS. With adequate and well-trained medical and psychiatric staff, the various kinds of therapies and the use of the buildings was converted into a skilled level nursing facility in order to provide nursing home services for those IRS who no longer required psychiatric care but were in need of more medical and nursing services.
This decade saw an increase in the number of admissions to state hospitals, but a decrease in the number of long-term IRS as community based programs developed statewide. An Alcohol Rehabilitation Center and a 96-bed intermediate nursing facility were licensed during the 1970s. To further in-service education, the hospital established a series of courses designed to better prepare the psychiatric direct care workers for their duties. A deinstitutionalization program was reinstated with special emphasis on discharge planning and treatment programs. A halfway house was established in the community to provide former IRS the opportunities to develop and exercise independent living skills. During the 1980s the treatment team model was implemented and a unit to prepare long-term residents for discharge was developed. EMSH saw the development of the unit based treatment model which provided IRS with an active treatment intervention to facilitate return to the community and to reduce the number of IRS in extended treatment services. The Case Management System, Respite Program to divert admissions, and the Treatment Mall were developed to provide psychosocial community based day treatment. Programming was expanded in existing community programs and efforts were made to promote community awareness and support. Group homes were established and supervised apartments became available to provide alternative living arrangements for former IRS. In 1984 The Board of Mental Health approved a plan to establish catchments areas to regulate admissions to the state's two psychiatric hospitals. This action was intended to make maximum use of the hospitals' resources. EMSH currently serves thirty-one counties that include five of fifteen mental health regions in Mississippi. This area covers a population of approximately 900,000. The 1990s brought an expansion of the parameters of IRS care. Additional full-time staff was secured to offer a broader spectrum of services to the IRS. Affiliations with medical hospitals and consultant physicians were added to the range of medical services available. All these changes improved the staff-IRS ratio. Education of staff was emphasized. Continuing in-service education was mandated for medical and other professionals and an academic linkage agreement was established with state colleges and universities to provide supervised clinical experiences for students.
In 1993, one of the hospital buildings was renovated to meet nursing home requirements and opened as Reginald P. White Nursing Facility 303. The EMSH adolescent school was officially named Magnolia Grove School and organized as a separate department with the appointment of a chief administrative officer. An internal school board was appointed to serve as governing body. In July of 1995, Magnolia Grove School completed all requirements to be certified as a Special School with full accreditation from the State Department of Education. Opening of new facilities have marked the beginning of the twenty-first century. Two new group homes were opened in DeKalb, MS in August 2001. These homes provide residence for ten men and ten women in a homelike setting.
The Bradley A. Sanders Adolescent Complex or BASAC as it is commonly called, was dedicated April 18, 2002. Named after a longtime Department of Mental Health employee, the 50-bed complex was built on 63 acres of land near the hospital's main campus to replace the existing adolescent unit located in one of the hospital's older buildings.
On November 20, 2003, a groundbreaking ceremony was held for construction of a new R.P. White Nursing Facility. The facility consists of two, 120-bed single story buildings which are built on a beautiful eighteen-acre tract of EMSH property located in northwest Lauderdale County off Old Eighth Street Road. The new facility opened on March 16, 2006. The City of Meridian, which seemed distant from the hospital a century ago, has surrounded the hospital; and today East Mississippi State Hospital is part of a growing area of schools, recreational areas, and special support services for the community. Except for services to the severely physically ill, EMSH provides inpatient services for adults and adolescents requiring psychiatric or substance abuse treatment as well as nursing home services. In addition, EMSH operates a continuum of community based services such as the Treatment Mall, which offers programming to mentally ill individuals living throughout the community, and also three group homes located in Kemper county. Group Homes give individuals an opportunity to live in a community setting, while still being supervised by support staff that help individuals develop their daily living and coping skills.
The future of East Mississippi State Hospital seems bright for the staff but brighter still for the citizens of Mississippi who are in need of the unique services the hospital offers.
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