Trends in Social Work, 1874-1956: A History Based on the Proceedings of the National Conference of Social Work

By Frank J. Bruno | Go to book overview

5 · CONCERN OF THE CONFERENCE
WITH THE INSANE AND THE
FEEBLE-MINDED

THE INSANE

DURING its first ten years the National Conference of Charities and Correction was composed, for the most part, of members of state boards who were not primarily responsible for the administration of institutions for the care of mental patients; but the members were true to their function and exercised the right to comment, to criticize, and to suggest. There was a now- forgotten National Association of Superintendents and Members of Boards of Asylums for the Insane, whose members did have the duty of caring for the insane; and with this group the Conference had differences which at times deteriorated into severe conflicts. Specifically, the Conference was interested in the abolition of physical and narcotic restraint; in plans for separation of the chronically insane from the acutely insane; in building costs and arrangements; in personnel; in accuracy of statistics on insanity and its causes; and in an accurate statement of the percentage of cures.

Hospitals for the insane existed in the Middle Ages. In this country, however, except for one hospital erected by the state of Virginia in Williamsburg in 1773, and the one in Philadelphia started under the stimulus of Benjamin Franklin in 1775, care of the insane was usually entrusted to the almshouses until the second quarter of the nineteenth century. The first institution for the mentally ill in New York State was built in 1843, but so great was the increase in number of patients that by 1875 there were seven such institutions in New York; and a

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