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

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


Well, the bill has a new number but it’s not dead! Yay! Special thanks to Senator Joseph Robach and Tim Ragazzo!

On March 1, 2013, Tim Ragazzo, Director of Operations & Legislation from Senator Joe Robach‘s office, called me to let me know that the bill was re-introduced (with a new number), to the NYS Senate and has been referred to the finance committee. This is great news because it means the bill is not dead! Now it has to pass in the Assembly. Hopefully, the bill will become law before it expires at the end of 2014.
-L.S. Stuhler at lsstuhler@gmail.com

Willard Cemetery Disk by Roger Luther at nysAsylum.com

Willard Cemetery Disk by Roger Luther at nysAsylum.com


Willard Cemetery 2 by Roger Luther at nysAsylum.com

Willard Cemetery 2 by Roger Luther at nysAsylum.com

For more information about these long-closed New York State Hospitals, check out the “Interesting Articles & Documents” page.


By 1901, there were thirteen state hospitals for the insane in the State of New York. All these hospitals buried their dead in anonymous, unmarked graves. Some had their own cemetery like Willard State Hospital; others used city and county cemeteries like Rochester State Hospital. Most of these state hospital cemeteries are unmarked, unkempt, and forgotten. None of the thousands of former psychiatric patients’ names have been released to the public. Considering that in 1870, the first patient was buried in the Willard Cemetery, which in the year 2012 covers a span of five or six generations, these people have waited long enough to be remembered. When you release the names, you remove the stigma. The following is a list of most of these long-closed state hospitals; there are more.

1. Utica State Hospital – Counties of Fulton, Hamilton, Herkimer, Montgomery, Oneida, Saratoga, Schenectady and Warren.

2. Hudson River State Hospital – Counties of Albany, Columbia, Dutchess, Greene, Putnam, Richmond, Rensselaer, Washington and Westchester.

3. Middletown State Hospital – Counties of Orange, Rockland, Sullivan and Ulster.

4. Buffalo State Hospital – Counties of Erie and Niagara.

5. Willard State Hospital – Counties of Allegany, Cayuga, Genesee, Ontario, Orleans, Schuyler, Seneca, Steuben, Tompkins, Wayne and Yates.

6. Binghamton State Hospital – Counties of Broome, Chemung, Chenango, Cortland, Delaware, Madison, Otsego, Schoharie and Tioga.

7. St. Lawrence State Hospital – Counties of Clinton, Essex, Franklin, Jefferson, Lewis, Onondaga,Oswego and St. Lawrence.

8. Rochester State Hospital – Counties of Monroe and Livingston.

9, 10. Long Island State Hospital – (Kings Park and Flatbush, Brooklyn) – Counties of Kings, Queens, Nassau and Suffolk.

11, 12. Manhattan State Hospital – (Manhattan and Central Islip) – Counties of New York and Richmond.

13. Gowanda State Homoeopathic Hospital (Collin’s Farm) – Counties of Cattaraugus, Chautauqua and Wyoming.

Additional State Hospitals:

14. Pilgrim State Hospital – Brentwood, Suffolk County, New York

15. Mohansic State Hospital – Yorktown, Westchester County, New York

State Hospitals for the Criminally Insane:

16, 17. Mattaewan and Dannemora State Hospitals


Anonymous Graves In New York

It is indeed unfortunate that thousands of poor “sane” men, women, and children who lived and died in the county poor houses and other charitable institutions of our country were buried in unmarked, anonymous graves, but their final resting places can be marked with an engraved headstone. The same rule does not apply for those who were labeled “insane.” It is frustrating for family researchers who are interested in obtaining information about their ancestors who were incarcerated at one of these long closed insane asylums because of the federal HIPAA Law which states, The Office for Civil Rights enforces the HIPAA Privacy Rule, which protects the privacy of individually identifiable health information; the HIPAA Security Rule, which sets national standards for the security of electronic protected health information; and the confidentiality provisions of the Patient Safety Rule, which protect identifiable information being used to analyze patient safety events and improve patient safety.” Everyone has been forced to sign HIPAA documents at their doctor’s office. Most people interpret this law as one that applies to living individuals, not to people who have been dead for over one hundred years. What is even more confusing is that a few states have interpreted the law differently than New York State. NEW HIPAA Update 2013.

The Inmates of Willard, as well as all former inmates of New York State Hospitals, deserve a cemetery that is clearly marked with a dignified, cemetery appropriate sign. It should be well maintained and treated with respect like any other cemetery as a place where descendants and friends gather to pay respects, lay flowers, or meditate in silence. Some states have released the names of former patients buried in anonymous graves at these long-closed, state owned mental institutions, and they have allowed engraved headstones to be placed on the graves. In some cases, these states have provided funding for the headstones. It is my hope that the names of the patients buried in anonymous graves in cemeteries owned or formerly owned by the State of New York will be made available to the public in a unified, searchable, digital database. If these current laws are not modified, these people will forever remain forgotten and anonymous. After 143 years, the time has come to accept the mistakes of the past and turn a wrong into a right by releasing the names of the people buried at the Willard State Hospital Cemetery and all people buried anonymously in state mental institution cemeteries across America. They have waited long enough.

Thousands of people were incarcerated in state insane asylums during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Anonymous burials are common for state mental institutions across New York State and the country. People genuinely do care and are interested in the way their ancestors were treated, how they died, and where they were buried.

Hopefully bill S2514-2013 will soon become a law and will include provisions for a searchable database available to the public. Interested people need to contact their New York State Senators and Assembly Persons to let them know that this bill needs to become a law so that these forgotten, anonymous souls will finally be remembered. 

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.