Mayview State Hospital
Allegheny County, Pennsylvania
Mayview State Hospital was a Pennsylvania mental institution located in Allegheny County that closed in December 2008. It served the Pittsburgh metropolitan area that by the late 1800s, was growing at a rapid rate until the Economic Panic of 1893 that led to severe hardships for many citizens.(1) Sensing the need, the city constructed a poorhouse which housed only 30.
By 1846, the poorhouse was overcrowded and in need for replacement. In that year, the city purchased 150 acres along the banks of the Monongahela River and constructed a three-story brick structure that was designed to hold 300.(1) But the facility soon became overcrowded, and a new location was sought out of the city and into the rural countryside, believing that rural locales would result in healthier patients. This was important for those that suffered from medical ailments, as the poorhouses warehoused not only the poor, but the orphaned, unwed pregnant mothers, and those suffering from tuberculosis.
Marshalsea, named for the London debtors prison made famous for holding Charles Dickens’ father, was constructed in southern Allegheny County in 1893 on what was the George Neal Farm by the city of Pittsburgh.(1)(2) The existing poorhouse was sold to the Carnegie Steel Company for $450,000.(1) The new 243-acre mental institution housed 340 patients.(2)
In 1899, a building to house the mentally insane was constructed (1) but it was not long before the complex had a reputation “as a place of sorrow.”
“Poor wrecks of humanity they are – some mental, some physical, some moral wrecks – stranded, at last dependent upon the city for enough to keep a miserable broken body and a poor shrunken soul together. [...] If there is to-day a discontented man or woman in this city I prescribe a trip to Marshalsea. The blood may flee from the face at times and pity clutch at the heart strings.”
-Home Monthly, 1900
In 1916, a contest was held to find a suitable name for the facility, in an attempt to ward off the negativity surrounding Marshalsea’s reputation.(1) Mayview won out of four finalists, and the hospital was renamed to the Pittsburgh City Home and Hospital at Mayview.(2)
During the early years, Mayview featured a coal mine, which fed a power plant that produced steam for heat and electricity.(1) The mine, which opened in 1917, lasted until 1956.(2) The farm, which was located on the top of the hills overlooking Mayview and along the Chartiers Creek, raised approximately 60% of the food that was consumed in the complex. At the height of Mayview in 1934, the hospital boasted 80 structures and 1,001 acres in South Fayette Township, and counted over 4,000 patients and 450 employees.(1)(2)
Until 1940, unwed mothers were often sent to Mayview, who were frequently declared illegitimus, or “mother insane.”(1)
Maturity and Decline
On June 1, 1941, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania assumed responsibility for Mayview’s 3,200 residents.(2) An observation unit was established in 1946, which became the forensic center in 1974. The forensic center provided evaluation and treatment for individuals in the criminal justice system.(3)
Through advances in treatment for those with mental illness, state hospitals such as Mayview experienced patient declines. In 1969, more than 27,000 were housed in state hospitals, but that had dropped to 4,900 in the mid-1990s, and less than 2,000 by 2007.(3)
In the early 1990s, Mayview’s adolescent was shuttered.(8) By 2008, only several buildings remained in active use on 335 acres at Mayview, housing 225 individuals from five nearby counties, employing 502 and containing a total operating budget of $63 million.(1)(2) Thirty-nine buildings remained, 12 of which were used for patient care and hospital administration. The remainder were either abandoned or mothballed.(2)
The closure of Mayview was long planned, but hastened after a series of serious incidents and deaths. in October 2007, within a time frame of 24 hours, two former Mayview patients died. Anthony Fallert, who had been released in the spring of 2006, had wondered from his residence in a South Side residence operated by Mercy Behavioral Mental Health, and most likely leapt to his death into the Monongahela River from the Birmingham Bridge.(1) Fallert had also lived in facilities in Clarion County and New Kensington. On the day that Fallert’s body was being pulled from the river, Ahson J. Abdullah, another former patient of Mayview, was struck by a train as he walked on railroad tracks near his residence in Braddock. Abdullah, who revolved in and out of jail for most of his life, was a patient of Mayview’s forensic unit.(1)
Other incidents were noted, but as Joan Erney, deputy secretary of welfare at the Pennsylvania Office of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Service’s Department of Public Welfare noted, “every person deserves the opportunity to be in the community and it’s our obligation to provide them with the support they need in order to make that successful.”(1) It was a stated goal of the Department to reduce reliance on institutional care, and improve access to home and community-based services.(2)
In addition, there were options for extended acute care and treatment services at nearby hospitals, alternate employment opportunities for the staff at Mayview, and because the counties served by Mayview were within the HealthChoices managed care program for Medical Assistance recipients.(2)
Rumors began in 2006, of Mayview possibly closing or realigning with an existing medical center due to declining patient counts and rising expenditures.(3) As part of the downsizing process, one of the ten wards was closed off in August after 30 patients were discharged, reducing the number of beds from 285 to 255.(3)(6)(7) The first downsizing was titled “Wave 1,” indicating future patient reductions.(8) Further downsizing in May and June 2007 reduced the bed county by 23.(6)
On August 15, 2007, the Department of Public Welfare announced that Mayview State Hospital would close by the end of 2008.(3) $18.9 million was made available to support the discharge of the remaining patients.
On December 29, 2008, Mayview State Hospital closed,(2) and at the time of closure, Mayview housed only 37 patients and employed 259.(1) On the day of the closure, 17 patients remained at Mayview, entangled in a battle between the Department of Public Welfare and Mercy Behavior Health, a local firm that had been hired to take care of some of the Mayview patients, and a group of citizens in the township.(9) Mercy had proposed converting a closed nursing home into a long-term residence for the mentally ill.
Local citizens, many of whom had not lived in the region during the height of Mayview, charged that many of the patients being discharged were involved in local murders or suicides, and that locating a 24-hour mental health center close to their homes – and the Mayview campus, would endanger their lives.(9) The group cited news reports that two had died and three had committed murders, yet the two that had died had either passed away in accidents or suicides, and of the three who were listed as murders, none were listed as a patient at Mayview. Only one was sent to Mayview for a psychiatric evaluation after a court conviction.
What replaced Mayview was a collection of different options: outpatient mental health services for patients in small groups, long-term residential communities with 24-hour care, and institutional care at nearby hospitals with psychiatric units.(1) In other instances, at least 220 affordable units would be made available, which would be subsidized through Section 8.(3)
On May 24, 2010,(5) the state of Pennsylvania agreed to sell the land that contained Mayview to the Aloe Brothers LLC coal company for $505,505 for nearly 200 acres, which includes a coal mine that had long closed.(4) Early estimates for the land were in excess of $7.8 million, and the disappointing sale price left many involved in the reuse plan disappointed. State Senator John Pippy, who co-chaired the Mayview Land Reuse Task Force, was disappointed in the price and how quickly a deal had been reached. Pippy and others had wanted the land to be sold at fair market value and for the proceeds to go towards a trust for community-based mental health service to benefit those the hospital had earlier served.
Pippy had introduced Senate Bill 1339 in April, which would place any net proceeds of the sale into a mental health and retardation services trust that would be administered by the state Department of Public Welfare.(4)
Despite the high value for the land, the buildings were a $13 million liability, which left the appraisal in the negative by $5.2 million.(4)(5) The appraisal was not made public, which was completed by Federal Appraisal and Consulting, P.C.(5) The other bid for the land was for $130,000 by Teodori Enterprises of Lawrence, who had proposed a business and industrial park on the lower part of the property, and a housing tract on 22-acres where the Geriatric Ward was.(4)(5)
The state of Pennsylvania will retain mineral rights on the former state hospital property.(4) Aloe Brothers’ plan is to demolish the buildings for an office park, park space and walking trails.(5)
Buildings 26 & 28: Staff Quarters H and G
Bldg. 65 & 71: Temple Center I and II Geriatric Ward
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- Fahy, Joe, and Steve Mellon. “Mayview State Hospital: Last reminder of a lost era closes.” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. N.p., 28 Dec. 2008. Web. 11 Apr. 2011. Article.
- “Mayview State Hospital Closure Frequently Asked Questions.” Mayview Regional Service Area Plan. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Apr. 2011. Article.
- Fahy, Joe, and Tom Barnes. “State to close Mayview Hospital.” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. N.p., 16 Aug. 2007. Web. 14 Apr. 2011. Article.
- Beras, Erika. “Former Mayview State Hospital Land Sold.” DUQ News Specials. Natl. Public Radio. WDUQ, Pittsburgh, 4 July 2010. Web. Transcript. 9 May 2011. Article.
- David, Brian. “State to be paid $505,505 for Mayview.” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. N.p., 3 June 2010. Web. 9 May 2011. Article.
- Fahy, Joe. “Patients continue to move out of Mayview.” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. N.p., 10 May 2007. Web. 9 May 2011. Article.
- Fahy, Joe. “Mayview to cut back, shut one of 10 wards.” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. N.p., 3 Aug. 2006. Web. 9 May 2011. Article.
- Law, Violet. “Taking the Long View on Mayview.” Pittsburgh City Paper. N.p., 1 June 2006. Web. 9 May 2011. Article.
- Roddy, Dennis B. “Mayview’s closing brings fear and hope.” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. N.p., 29 Dec. 2008. Web. 11 Apr. 2011. Article.