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Forest Haven


Laurel, Maryland


The District Training School for the Mentally Retarded, open in 1925 in the town of Laurel, Maryland. This new state of the art facility was designed in a farm like institution to help its patients with life skills and training. With over 250-acres of land and 30 plus structures this would be a perfect place for patients with intellectual disabilities of the District of Columbia to thrive in this community setting with love and support. It had a chapel, theater, playgrounds, hospital building, dormitories, gym, and much more. In the mid to 1950s the institutions was caring for a little over 1,000 patients but by the 1960s that started to change with defunding and new treatment ideas for patients. In 1963 the institution changed its name to Forest Haven to lessen the sigma of its patients disabilities. 

Also taking place in the 1960s was the deinstitutionalization movement in America. Because of this, most of the patients were starting to be moved to group homes and out of Forest Haven. With defunding, budget cuts and low staff, Forest Haven became a toxic environment for its patients with physical, mental abuse and sexual abuse. The patients families filed a lawsuit against Forest Haven and towards the mistreatment of its residents in 1978. This resulted in the movement of many of them to group homes off campus. WIth abuse reports, lawsuits, declining patients and history of mistreatment, Forest Haven was forced to close. After it relocated its last resident in September, it closed for good on October 14, 1991.


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