Augusta State Hospital

1840- 2004

Augusta, Maine

Construction begin in 1835 on Maine’s first State Hospital for the insane. The new state was only 10 years old before realizing that 1 in every 300 residents were suffering from some sort of insanity. The legislature then appointed $20,000 for a hospital to be built and a $10,000 donation from two private citizens. The location chosen for this was located on a 35-acre lot next to the Kennebec River in Augusta, Maine. With mental health reform starting to take over, the famous Dorothea Dix would consult on the new hospitals built. It would include State of the art lighting, ventilation, heating, and water.  Although it looks very much and has the same ideas like the Kirkbride plan, it was built before it’s time. Rather it was built in a corridor plan and modeled after the original Worcester State Hospital (1833) in Massachusetts. It was designed in a Greek Rival & Italianate with Hallowell granite. 

 

After 5 years of construction in 1840, the Maine Insane Hospital opens to serve 120 patients. Patients from all over the state came to the new hospital in hopes of living a better life. In 1850, the hospital has a major fire that destroys half the building and kills 28 people including a staff member. With more and more patients coming in every year over crowding became the number one issues. With constint pressure from over crowding the state opened its second state hospital in Bangor in 1901 called Eastern Maine Insane Hospital taking 145 patients. In 1913 the hospital was renamed Augusta State Hospital. Insulin-shock therapy, Hydro and radiant-heat therapy became a popular method in curing the mentally ill in the 1930s/40s. Around the 50s lithium and Thorazine therapy become the new popular treatment. Around this time the patient population began to peak at 1,837 which would be 30% over what the hospital could handle. The hospital also began to treat other illnesses like substance abuse and addiction in the 60s. In the 70s an adolescent unit opens in the hospital and a growing mental health community settings start to take place called deinstitutionalization. The name was changed again to Augusta Mental Health Institute. Over the next decades the hospital suffered from lawsuits, drop in patient population, lack of mental health programs, care issues with patients and staff, and improvements to the facility. 

 

With the on going issues and a need for a fresh start, in 2000 the state legislature approved $33 million for a new facility to be built on the property replacing the old out dated hospital. Four years later in 2004, Augusta Mental Health Institute closed its doors after serving the State of Maine for 164 years. The new Riverview Psychiatric Center then opened across the way with 92 beds for patients.