Jacksonville State Hospital

About two months after Dorothea Dix addressed its legislature in 1847, Illinois began preparing for the creation of its first state asylum for the insane. The asylum was built near the town of Jacksonville in Morgan County, and opened in 1851, although construction of its Kirkbride building continued for a short while afterward.

In 1860 a woman named Elizabeth Packard was committed involuntarily to the Jacksonville asylum. Mrs. Packard had begun disagreeing with her husband's religious beliefs, and he had her committed against her will. Although state law at the time granted anyone being committed against their will the right to a public hearing, husbands could still have their wives confined to an asylum without one. Elizabeth spent three years at Jacksonville. After her discharge from the hospital she separated from her husband and formed the Anti-Insane Asylum Society. Her efforts produced a state law granting the right of a public hearing for all people declared insane, including women whose husbands wished to have them committed.

Over the years, the Jacksonville hospital grew considerably, eventually housing a few thousand patients at a time and including over one hundred buildings on its campus. In 1974, the hospital's function expanded to include treating the developmentally disabled. To reflect this change, the hospital's name became the Jacksonville Mental Health and Developmental Center the following year. Today, the facility continues operation as the Jacksonville Developmental Center, although the hospital has been downsized considerably. The Kirkbride building was demolished some time in the latter half of the twentieth century, although it is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

Other names for this hospital:

  • State Hospital for the Insane
  • Central Hospital for the Insane
  • Jacksonville Mental Health and Developmental Center
  • Jacksonville Developmental Center

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