1864 The Willard Asylum and Provisions For The Insane – County Poor House Investigation


By an Act of the New York Legislature, passed on the 30th day of April, 1864, the Secretary of the State Medical Society was authorized to investigate the condition of the insane poor in the various poor-houses, alms-houses, insane asylums, and other institutions, where the insane poor are kept, not including, however, such institutions as are now required by law to report to the Legislature of the State.

The law directed the Secretary to arrange a series of questions, such as in his judgment would be likely to elicit the greatest amount of information on this subject, procure them printed, and transmit them to each county judge in the State. It directed the county judge, on the reception thereof, to appoint a competent physician, a resident of the county, to visit the county poor-house, or institution where the insane poor are kept, and to examine into the condition and treatment of the insane inmates, and to transmit the result of the investigation to the Secretary, who was thereupon directed to condense the information so received and report the same to the Legislature.

Dr. Willard, the Secretary of the Medical Society, entered at once upon the service assigned him, and the following January his report was presented to the Legislature. This document bears ample testimony to the earnestness, fidelity, and zeal with which the author executed the duties of his commission; and although he died, prematurely and lamented, before the passage of the law creating a new institution for the insane, a grateful commonwealth has perpetuated his memory and name in the Willard Asylum for the Insane.

The leading features of the law, passed by the last Legislature, authorizing the establishment of a State Asylum for the chronic insane, and for the better care of the insane poor, are as follows:

It provides for the appointment, by the Governor, of three Commissioners to select, contract for, and purchase a suitable site for the building, -said site to be first sought for in any property owned by the State, or upon which it has a lien; the construction, by the Commissioners, of suitable asylum buildings, or the modification of buildings already erected and not occupied for other State purposes; the appointment by the Governor of seven trustees, who shall have power to appoint a medical superintendent, one assistant physician, a steward and a matron, and adopt the necessary by-laws for the government of the asylum, and fix the rate per week, not exceeding two dollars, for the board of patients, and, with the approbation of the Governor, designate the counties from which the chronic pauper insane shall be sent to the said asylum.

The chronic pauper insane from the poor-houses of the counties thus designated, shall be sent to the said asylum by the county superintendents of the poor, and all chronic insane pauper patients who may be discharged, not recovered, from the State Lunatic Asylum at Utica, and who continue a public charge, shall be sent to the asylum for the insane hereby created.

The county judges and superintendents of the poor in every county of the State, except those counties having asylums for the insane, to which they are now authorized to send such insane patients by special legislative enactments, are hereby required to send all indigent or pauper insane coming under their jurisdiction, who shall have been insane less than one year, to the State Lunatic Asylum at Utica.

Seventy-five thousand dollars are hereby appropriated for the purpose of carrying into execution the provisions of this act. The asylum hereby created shall be known as the Willard Asylum for the Insane.”

SOURCE: American Journal Of Insanity, October 1865, Pages 1-5.
New York State County Poor Houses.


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