S6805-2011 – S2514-2013 – NY Senate Open Legislation – Relates to patients interred at state mental health hospital cemeteries – New York State Senate

NEW! UPDATED BILL: S2514-2013 – NY Senate Open Legislation – Relates to patients interred at state mental health hospital cemeteries – New York State Senate.

S6805-2011 – NY Senate Open Legislation – Relates to patients interred at state mental health hospital cemeteries – New York State Senate.

A10636-2011 – NY Assembly Open Legislation – Relates to patients interred at state mental health hospital cemeteries – New York State Assembly.

Imagine not being remembered in death because in life you were diagnosed with diabetes, heart disease or cancer. Most people would find this kind of treatment cruel and inhumane but it exists to this day for people who were diagnosed with a mental illness or developmental disability during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. This bill is important and necessary in order to restore the dignity and personhood of the thousands of people who were incarcerated and died at former New York State Insane Asylums and Custodial Institutions. When the bodies of the inmates were not claimed by family members, they were buried in anonymous, unmarked graves. They deserve to have their names remembered and available to the public in a searchable database.

The list of these former New York State Hospitals includes but is not limited to: BinghamtonBuffaloCentral IslipCreedmoorDannemoraEdgewoodGowandaHudson RiverKings ParkLong IslandManhattanMatteawanMiddletownMohansicPilgrimRochesterSt. LawrenceSyracuseUtica, and Willard

The Feeble-Minded (Intellectual Disabilities) and Epileptic Custodial Institutions of New York includes but is not limited to: Craig Colony for EpilepticsLetchworth Village for Epileptics & Intellectually DisabledNewark State School for Intellectually Disabled WomenRome State School for Intellectually Disabled Adults & Children, and Syracuse State School for Intellectually Disabled Children. There may be more.

There is no good reason why these long deceased souls need to be punished and stigmatized in death for an illness or disability that they lived with in life. The great majority of these former state hospitals closed in favor of smaller group home settings or changed their names to Psychiatric Centers about 1974. The cemeteries that belonged to these institutions are inactive. I do not understand why anyone would need to have their name withheld from any list until 50 years had passed after their death. This requirement in the bill only serves to feed the stigma. Let’s hope that even with this flaw, it becomes law.

Photo by Roger Luther at www.nysAsylum.com

Photo by Roger Luther at http://www.nysAsylum.com

The Willard Cemetery - Veterans

Veteran’s Graves 5.14.2011

Willard Cemetery 1 - 5.14.2011

Willard Cemetery 5.14.2011

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4 thoughts on “S6805-2011 – S2514-2013 – NY Senate Open Legislation – Relates to patients interred at state mental health hospital cemeteries – New York State Senate

  1. Thanks for the update. This must be a relief for all those who have had family members in the Willard and other institutes. How will the family go about finding out more now concerning their loved one? Will information be given about their medical records? Barbara S

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    • Hi Barbara, I guess we will have to wait and see if the bill passes, then find out who will be allowed to transcribe the information, and then figure out where to post the info. I’m hoping that if the bill becomes law that the NYS Archives will be able to help so that all the names can be located in one central location. From there, fundraising efforts can begin in order to mark the graves. It will be a long process because we are talking about at least 15 former state hospitals, but this can be accomplished. The medical records are not included in this bill, I don’t know if they will ever be released. Privacy ends at death but confidentiality apparently continues forever. It’s a shame because this is history. Descendants like me, who only wanted to know how their ancestor died and how they were treated while incarcerated, may never find out the truth. Thanks for caring!

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  2. Are you responsible for getting Joe Robach to sponsor this bill? I just found out that it went to the Finance Committee on June 6th. The graves at Willard when marked with foundry markers may have then helped to locate the presence of each patient, but since the markers were pulled out, we know that the replacement markers never were all replaced. The Old Protestant section and the Old Catholic section never were replaced . Our Memorial Project will be thrilled if we can erect obilisks throughout the Cemetery and have the 5,776 names recorded to memorialize them.

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    • Yes, Colleen, I am responsible for getting Senator Robach to sponsor the bill. Let’s hope it becomes a law. Will you be raising money for individual headstones? I think that would be wonderful!

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