My American Landscape LIV

Institutions for mentally challenged were once a respite from the world, sometimes, a home

Northern State Hospital just outside of Sedro-Woolley, Washington was once the shining example of contemporary mental health care. The tour from which these images were gathered was one of the last. When eaves-dropping on conversations, it was a little eerie. Listening to women discuss their nursing careers at the now decaying structures created a slightly haunted feeling.

My high school was Sedro-Woolley High School, yup named for the same city mentioned above. When the state began discussing closing Northern State Hospital it sent waves of anxiety through my friends and other students. Many of my classmates’ parents worked at NSH as their only source of income.

Moms, Dads, Uncles, even the occasional teen, worked with zeal to keep patients at ease and healthy. The memories of a fellow drafting class friend has always left me with a sense of awe. His father went from being a nurse to a tree feller on a logging crew.

Wandering and listening to former employees left me haunted, haunted because the closing of the hospital created so much hardship for many families in Sedro-Woolley. There were not enough beds for all of the patients in other state institutions. Thus began the “local mental health beds” attempt to transition to local “mental health care.”

It reminds me of how the medical systems are always changing. I watch bigger fish consume smaller systems. The thinking that larger is better. Less upper-level management and so on and so on. But as medical care is moved out of the local management, how can local care remain local. And sometimes maybe, just maybe a larger state institution is a better option. I look around our state as I travel back and forth from East to West. There is not a city or burg that is not impacted by homelessness. Yes, some of it is likely economic. However, a considerable amount is likely mental. Whether drug-induced, genetically, or trauma. The suffering among us are not receiving their due care.

The medical industries’ behavior reminds me of how local newspapers become part of mega-media corporations. We are watching how that has worked out. This corporate mentality leaves me me wondering if we really advance the medical and mental care of those challenged greater then we who have benefited by education, employment and endowment.

For more of a tour and historical look at Northern State Hospital take a look at these two posts by Tom at Random Connections
A Visit to Northern State – Part 1, History and Cemetery
A Visit to Northern State – Part 2, The Recreation Area

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