John G. Johnson

AUSTIN STATE HOSPITAL. The Austin State Hospital was established as the State Lunatic Asylum by act of the Sixth Legislature in 1856 and began operation in May 1861 with twelve patients. It is the oldest hospital in Texas for the care and treatment of the mentally ill. Initially, asylums in Texas were operated under individual boards of five members, appointed by the governor, with each board developing its own standards. In 1913 the legislature placed its mental hospitals under individual boards of managers. In January 1920 state hospitals were placed under the Board of Control. The name of the Austin asylum was changed to Austin State Hospital in 1925. In 1949 control of the hospital was transferred to the Board for Texas State Hospitals and Special Schools. In 1993 it was operated by the Texas Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation.

In 1942 a state dairy and hog farm was established on 308 acres owned by the state, seventeen miles from Austin, to provide milk and meat for Texas mental institutions. An additional 1,140 acres was leased. The Austin State Hospital had from twenty-five to thirty patients stationed at the farm in 1945. That year the hospital had 2,810 beds, 2,774 patients, and 360 nonmedical staff employees, and the medical staff consisted of the superintendent, assistant superintendent, nine assistant physicians, and one dentist. In 1940 the hospital was designated an independent school district and began providing education for school-age psychiatric patients. By 1961 it had a rated capacity of 2,608 patients, and service had been expanded by outreach clinics and follow-up services for furloughed and discharged patients. In 1964 it expanded, within its own grounds, to incorporate patients from the Texas Confederate Home.

The Austin State Hospital had an average daily population in 1968 of 3,313, and 900 elderly patients were maintained on furlough in private facilities. The institution provided surgical services for residents and for persons from the Austin State School, the Travis State School,qqv and the Texas Confederate Home (before it was closed in 1967). An adult out-patient clinic was operated by the hospital, with referrals to the Travis County Mental Health and Mental Retardation Clinic and to various county community health centers around the state. Admissions of younger patients, alcoholic patients, and drug abusers increased in 1970, and the average daily census was 1,994. By 1986–87, with changes in the philosophy of treatment, there was an average of only 711 inmates, while the Austin MHMR center served 7,100. By 1992–93 inmates had decreased to 450, and the MHMR center served 9,000. In 1990 the hospital served thirty-four counties in Central Texas with an annual admittance of 3,500 patients but a daily average of only 518. In 1990 renovation was begun on the original administration building, the third oldest state building in Texas. It was expected to take from four to six years and to cost $4 million.

Mikel Jean Fisher Brightman, An Historical Survey of the State of Texas' Efforts to Aid the Mentally Ill and the Mentally Retarded (M.A. thesis, University of Texas at Austin, 1971).

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The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Handbook of Texas Online, John G. Johnson, "AUSTIN STATE HOSPITAL," accessed January 22, 2020,

Uploaded on June 9, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
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