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Allentown State Hospital


Allentown, Pennsylvania


Pennsylvania’s first Homeopathic State Hospital was located in Allentown on 209 acres of land behind the Leigh river. Having the worlds first Homeopathic College in the same town seemed fitting. The new hospital would be one of seven hospitals caring for the mental ill in the state in the early 1900s. The hospital would be built in a Pavilion plan but also patterned the famous Kirkbride block plan. (Admin in center while wards were on both sides) The pavilion plan would allow enough light and air to pass through the corridors to the wards. The admin being in the center of the hospital would have a beautiful marble corridors and staircase to greet staff and new patients. In late 1912 the hospital was finally finished and ready for operation with 210 beds. The Pennsylvania Homeopathic Hospital for the Insane opened on October 12, 1912 under the direction of Superintendent Dr. Henry l. Klopp. Patients from Norristown and Danville State hospital were some of the newest transfers to the facility. The hospital was a town in its self. Having its own power plant, farm, maintenance building, male and female dorms, two chapels, coal tramway, laundry, and theater/gym to name a few. The hospital offered many kinds of therapy to its patients like hydrotherapy, occupational therapy, and heliotherapy just to name a few. Like most hospitals at the time they removed word insane from the hospital’s directory, renaming it Allentown State Hospital. In the 1930s the hospital opened a children’s ward on the ground. It would later be compared to equaling in purpose and size as the Gaebler Children’s Center in Waltham, Massachusetts. They also built two tubercular buildings, isolation cottages for contagious diseases, more wards for patients and staff. In the 1950s the hospital peaked at over 2,000 patients. With limited rooms available, the staff would set up beds, dressers and chairs in the corridors connecting the wards to help relief pressure. Around 1960s funding was limited and services were cut leaving many patients to be find their own way. In 1998, Allentown State Hospital was the first hospital in the United States to stop using seclusion and unscheduled medication. They also recreated a new way to deal with “excited” patients. It was called PERT. (Psychiatric Emergency Response Team Process) PERT was a system where the a team would talk a patient down without ever touching them. It got a lot of negative press from other Pennsylvania state hospitals at the time. PERT became so successful that The World Health Organization adopted aspects of it. In the turn of the century, America’s attitude towards mental health started to change. With new drugs and therapy patients would not stay long periods of time in institutions. Instead they had shorter stays resulting in the population at the hospital to decline. On December 17, 2010 Allentown State Hospital closed its doors.


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