State Hospital Patients’ “New Look”, 1965

23 04 2012

The following is an excerpt from an Oregon Journal newspaper article published on Tuesday, April 20, 1965.  The changes described would not last long.  By 1969, patient clothing reappeared in the news. Articles in the Capital Journal (May 8th) and Oregon Statesman (May 10th) describe phasing out uniforms at the State Hospital.

By Marge Davenport

Journal Medical Writer

There’s a new look at the State Hospital in Salem.

It’s a bright, cheerful look and the patients are going to have it.

About a year ago, a consultant was asked to make an evaluation on the Oregon mental hospital. He was Dr. Hugh Caven of Eastern State Hospital at Medical Lake, Wash.

After surveying the institution he said, “The grounds are beautiful, the buildings are well kept and painted, but why don’t you paint the patients as well?”

HE EXPLAINED to puzzled State Hospital Administrator Dr. Dean Brooks that he thought nice looking, bright clothes for patients would go a long way towards improving morale, and helping the mental patient’s attitude.

Dr. Brooks agreed, but wondered how this could be accomplished on a yearly clothing budget of $9.79 per patient, the amount allowed for each person for the 12 month period.

This week, Dr. Brooks and the State hospital staff proudly announced how they have met the challenge.  They showed the solution in the “fashion show” of gay new clothes that will soon be available for the hospital’s patients.

These new styles, created from bolts of bright cotton right in the hospital’s sewing rooms, were proudly modeled by about 25 of the hospital’s patients.

THERE WERE pretty ginghams, perky prints and stylish drip-drys, nice enough for daytime wear anywhere.  For the men, the 30 hospital patients who work under the direction of Mrs. Elmer Livesly and Mrs. M. L. Powell had styled gay sport shirts.

“This is an important step in the therapy program of the State Hospital,” Dr. Brooks said.

With the hospital’s limited clothing budget, he is not sure how soon material will be available to make dresses and shirts for all patients needing them, but he adds that it will be done as rapidly as possible.

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