Wood County Hospital Part V: In later years
By Kris Leonhardt
By the early 1970s, the targeted 250-patient residency for the Wood County facility had fallen to just over 100. Treatment consisting of talk therapy and medication did much to keep individuals afflicted by mental illness from long term stays in an institution, returning them to a competent life in the community.
The main wing of the facilities was primarily used for treatment and as needs changed; the wing no longer met the obligations of the facilities and became outdated.
The county began discussion on new facilities, one that would accommodate the changing needs, due to new treatment and transitions.
In addition, the massive building could be scaled down to a smaller facility accommodating fewer patients.
As discussion turned to action, leaders looked to the property at 1600 N. Chestnut Ave., Marshfield as a possible site for a new facility.
At that time, there was little development in that portion of the city, but local residents had concerns over safety with the dangers that might present themselves with patients.
Eventually the concern dissipated and work began on the new location of the Norwood Health Care facility.
In March 1974, 100 plus patients were relocated from the outdated facilities on Galvin Avenue to the new institution on Chestnut Avenue.
Prior to the year of the transition, the facility had been licensed with the state as a county mental hospital. The hospital administered to patients dealing with mental illness, intellectual and developmental disabilities, and those dealing with alcohol and drug abuse.
In 1974, licensing regulations were changed and treatment facilities were licensed separately in the various areas of their treatment. At that point, Norwood Health Center was licensed as a specialty psychiatric hospital and nursing home.
More than a decade later, the licensing was updated to include treatment for adults with developmental disabilities.
The original Galvin Avenue facilities were abandoned as a working treatment facility. Under seven decades old, it had not achieved its useful life but could no longer fit the needs of a changing society.
The structure bore witness to changing treatment and perception of mental illness. Built in a time when mental institutions were exploding and residents were viewed as “lunatics” and grouped into two categories – mania and melancholy, the facility saw the best and the worst of progression.
From work therapy, to bleeding procedures, ice baths, lobotomies, and electroconvulsive shock therapy, treatment evolved over those decades.
Practices today have developed into an understanding of the full spectrum of mental illness, as well as more targeted methods on how to treat them.
Next week: The facility’s afterlife