1896 New York State Commission in Lunacy

Before you read The New York Times Article, I have given a brief explanation of what the New York State Commission in Lunacy was and who it was responsible for. It eventually morphed into the present day New York State Office of Mental Health. Instead of a president, the head of the OMH is the commissioner.

“The commission is composed of a physician, who is its president, a lawyer and a layman, aiming thereby to secure due attention to the medical, the legal and the material or business matters which concern the insane and the institutions for their custody and care. The commission collectively and individually is invested with a wide range of powers and is charged with a corresponding extent and variety of duties.”

“The commissioners are paid for their services as follows: To the medical member, $5,000 per annum; to the legal member, $3,000 per annum; to the lay member, $10 per day for each day of actual service; and to each member an allowance of $100 per month in lieu of all expenses for travel or other purposes.”

“Under the amended constitution of the State which took effect on January 1, 1895, the commission is raised from a legislative to a constitutional body, and made a permanent branch of the State government. It is endowed with sole and exclusive jurisdiction over the insane and over all institutions, public or private, for their custody; but it has been relieved from all connection with or charge of the idiotic, the epileptic and feeble-minded, or other defective and dependent classes. Its present composition, on the threefold basis above referred to, is calculated to insure efficiency in performance and success in administrative results in a larger measure than could be attained by perhaps any different arrangement.”

SOURCE: Report of the Investigation of the State Commission in Lunacy, and the State Hospitals for the Insane, by the Subcommittee of the Senate Finance and Assembly Ways and Means Committees. Transmitted to the Legislature May 10, 1895, Albany: James B. Lyon, State Printer, 1895, Pages 4,6,7.

O.M.H. Police Patch-Wikipedia

O.M.H. Police Patch-Wikipedia

President MacDonald of the State Commission Ridicules the Idea that the Patronage of the Hospitals for the Insane Will Go to Politicians –
He Expects Gov. Morton to Make Good Appointments Under the Horton Act.

Dr. Carlos F. MacDonald, President of the State Commission in Lunacy, yesterday ridiculed the notion that the patronage of the State hospitals for the insane would be transferred to politicians through the operation of the Horton act, which was signed by Gov. Morton on Wednesday.

The Governor is empowered by the act to appoint new Boards of Managers for all the State hospitals for the insane except the Homeopathic Hospital at Middletown. The number of managers in each case is to be seven, to be appointed at first for terms of one, two, three, four, five, six, and seven years, and afterward for the full term of seven years.

“I am quite sure” said Dr. MacDonald to a reporter for THE NEW-YORK TIMES, “that Gov. Morton will appoint men and women as managers whose character and standing in the community will be a guarantee of their efficiency and uprightness.

The State Commission in Lunacy is an absolutely non-political body in the performance of its duties, and if it were otherwise I should not be connected with it. While the clause in the Horton act removing the present Board of Managers was not suggested or approved by the Lunacy Commission, I do not believe that the appointment of new boards will make any serious changes in the system at present in vogue.

“Under the act passed in 1893, the Lunacy Commission has large powers of audit and supervision over the various State hospitals for the insane. No expenditure can be incurred by any Board of Managers without its sanction. This rule applies to small things as well as to great ones. No repairs to buildings can be made until the Lunacy Commission has given its consent to the work and to the price which is to be paid for it.

“Most of the staple articles – such as meat, clothing, milk, and so forth – are obtained through contracts, tenders being invited for three, six, or twelve months at a given price, the articles to be supplies as required. These contracts must be submitted to the Lunacy Commission, which sees that there is no serious inequality in price between the tenders from different districts. In some cases the commission uses its powers so as to make several districts combine to purchase their supplies of certain staples from one particular contractor, selected by open competition, to insure the reduction in price which comes from buying goods by the wholesale.

“Supplies for each hospital are now ordered by its steward with the approval of the Medical Superintendent, and therefore the Board of Managers has no power to increase such orders. The appointment of all subordinates in each hospital rests with the Medical Superintendent, under carefully regulated and rigorously observed civil service rules, so that this important branch of the service is not open to the attack of politicians.

“The Medical Superintendent of each State hospital for the insane is, indeed, only after competitive examination, open only to those who have served five years as medical assistants in one the State hospitals for the insane. This is an excellent provision, as it insures promotion for those who devote their abilities to the study of insanity. The Medical Superintendents cannot be removed except for cause.

“The list of managers appointed by Gov. Morton for the Manhattan State Hospital on Ward’s Island is an indication of the class of men and women he will appoint for all the hospitals. These are now Henry E. Howland, George E. Dodge, Mrs. Eleanor Kinnicut, John McAnerney, Isaac N. Seligman, Miss Alice Pine, and George S. Bowdoin.”

The State hospitals for the insane whose managers will go out of office by the terms of the Horton act are the Manhattan State Hospital, the Long Island State Hospital, in Brooklyn; the Hudson River State Hospital, at Poughkeepsie; the Buffalo State Hospital, the Rochester State Hospital, the Binghamton State Hospital, the Utica State Hospital, the St. Lawrence State Hospital, at Ogdensburg; the Willard State Hospital, at Ovid, Seneca County, and the Collins Farm, in Erie County.

The total annual expenditure for these hospitals is upward of $4,000,000. There were 18,269 insane persons confined in the public hospitals of this State on Oct. 1, 1894. These required 3,304 medical and ordinary attendants.

The improvement which has taken place in the State management of the insane in recent years is due in large measure to the increased powers of audit and supervision given to the State Lunacy Commission as a result of disclosures of mismanagement in the Hudson River Hospital and elsewhere in 1892.

Francis R. Gilbert, Deputy Attorney General, was directed by Gov. Flower to make an investigation of the affairs of the Hudson River State Hospital in February, 1893. It was proved that one dealer had had a monopoly of supplying this hospital with meat for the preceding twenty-one years, getting from 2 to 2 ½ cents a pound more than the market price.

It was also shown that the price paid for coal was excessive, and the quantity used extravagant. The attention of the public was directed to this mismanagement chiefly through the columns of THE NEW-YORK TIMES, and the consequence was the introduction of reformed civil service methods in the administration of all the State hospitals for the insane.

SOURCE: The New York Times. Published May 15, 1896. Copyright@The New York Times.