When I first started this project I held certain reservations pertaining to the current state of psychiatric facilities within the state. In that throughout my previous research I had managed to surmise an in depth history of some of the state oldest institutions such as those in Kalamazoo, Pontiac, and Traverse City, yet I found it difficult to find any in depth of analysis of facilities that were founded post 1920’s. While I first accredited this to a general lack of interest in such information. It was only later when I surmised that a lot of this information actually painted the state run facilities in a very negative light. As I read the two complaints that kept appearing throughout my research was rampant overcrowding and blatant under staffing. Leading to atrocious care conditions as recalled by Albert Deutsch in his book Shame of the States (1948). Which gave positive reviews of Clinton Valley Center (then called Eastern Michigan Asylum for the Insane), yet condemned facilities such as those in Ionia (originally Michigan Asylum for Insane Criminals) stating that patients were left to sleep on cots crudely arranged in the halls and chain smoked as the only means by which they could occupy themselves. Beyond this in terms of treatment programs available to patients I noticed an interesting pattern emerge in the states first 5 facilities in which one of the most common options for treatment was work therapy programs that allowed/mandated for patient employment as a means of self empowerment as well as teaching life skills to an all to often uneducated demographic. Whether they worked on the grounds tending to the facilities agriculture or worked within the community completing small jobs when available. A majority of these individuals except in the most extreme cases were free from physical and chemical restraints. Yet in continuing my research I was shocked to discover that between the years of 1914 and 1963 Michigan employed a forced sterilization policy that primarily were used on sexual deviants as well as female epileptic patients. While in its later years use required approval of a board of physicians its estimated that approximately 200 persons went through this procedure every year while active. Beyond this while researching I found it interesting that in the early 90’s under Michigan’s 45th-47th governors. The state saw drastic reductions in funding to these facilities and instead opted in large for the closure of every asylum. While a few research and care facilities still operate today such as those in Kalamazoo and Detroit these institutions often are reserved for the more extreme and immediate intervention cases.
The Michigan Historical Psychiatry Project was founded in (2016) and aims to establish for prosperity a location for students, teachers & researchers alike to learn about the relatively un-examined history of mental health care facilities as they’e operated within the great lakes region. While the primary focus of this projects research is based on facilities that operated in Michigan it is an ever evolving effort that given time will encompass a majority of the facilities within the U.S. Beyond this notion our goal is to reveal the real history behind these facilities and to give you the reader an honest impression of how these facilities operated and what sort of care was available.