Eastern State Hospital celebrates 200 years

Published 4:32 pm Monday, May 20, 2024

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On Friday, representatives from the state, including Lt.Gov. Jacqueline Coleman, the city of Lexington and the community joined the University of Kentucky in celebrating the 200th anniversary of Eastern State Hospital

On May 1, 1824, the original Eastern State Hospital opened its doors on the site of Fayette Hospital, located on Lexington’s Newtown Pike. At the time, it was thought to be just the second state psychiatric hospital in the nation. Through epidemics, storms, fires, floods and overcrowding, Eastern State has remained a constant, continuing to serve the community over the past two centuries. 

“We believe that health care is a right for all Kentuckians. This includes access to mental health resources,” said Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman, during the ceremony. “For 200 years, Eastern State Hospital has provided care for Kentuckians in need of help. The staff at Eastern State Hospital is knowledgeable and compassionate. They deserve to be called health care heroes.”

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The state opened a modern, 300,000-square-foot facility on the University of Kentucky’s Coldstream Research Campus is 2013. Owned by the Kentucky Department for Behavioral Health, Development and Intellectual Disabilities, and managed by UK HealthCare, the facility houses 195 acute care beds and provides critical, recovery-focused psychiatric care for adults from a 50-county region of the state. 

Mark D. Birdwhistell, senior vice president and chief administrative officer for UK HealthCare, helped secure funding and support for planning the new facility during his time as secretary of the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services, in collaboration with the Kentucky General Assembly. He also led the negotiations and developed the transition plan to allow Eastern State to be managed and operated by UK HealthCare beginning in 2013.

“I have dedicated my career to advancing the health of all Kentuckians, and behavioral health has been a particular passion of mine,” Birdwhistell stated. “To be here today to celebrate the great legacy we have here in Kentucky around recognizing the importance of behavioral health means a great deal to me. That legacy is why Eastern State Hospital was founded 200 years ago.” 

Eastern State provides a variety of therapeutic options for individuals, including but not limited to medication, evidence-based talk therapy and art, music and occupational therapies. The hospital’s Recovery Mall also boasts a gym, beauty shop, crafts room and music room, among other spaces.