Spencer State Hospital Memorial Marker

(12/10/2007)

Dear Editor,

This idea has been in my thoughts for some time. In January of 1978 I began work at the former Spencer State Hospital. It was my first encounter with the mental health system and a time when the WV system was just beginning to implement change. I began as a Case Aide and progressed over my 3 ½ year tenure to Social Worker and as one of the first of three Patient Advocates that developed that position within the state system.

I thoroughly enjoyed my work there. Most of the staff was dedicated and caring in light of the tremendous staff to patient inadequacy and low pay. The patients came from our communities around the state and I encountered friends and relatives that came through that system. We all have issues. Some are just more intense and over-whelming at times and need more professional attention. My family allowed me to bring patients home for holiday dinners, the hospital system allowed me to coordinate week-long camping trips for patient to places like Watoga State Park and Cedar Creek. I remember the late nights around the campfire when most had gone to sleep and some patients stayed up with staff. Some would show their true selves as clearly and as sanely as we thought we were, coming from behind the mask of mental illness as the four walls of confinement dropped away and we all sat as fellow human beings with no concepts of staff and patient. These experiences dramatically changed my views of humanity and judgment of others.

One of the tragedies of progress in our community is that for the 100 years of Spencer State Hospitals existence we are left without a memorial to the many tortured lives that passed thorough those halls or the many fine staff who dedicated their lives to the care of those individuals.

There is a group currently working to change that. The Roane County Possibilities Forum is collection of individuals seeking to develop strategies for community and economic development and focus on positive change in the community. The forum is sponsored by the Tri-County Partnership and the Roane County Family Resources Network.

We are seeking both individual and financial support to design and place a monument that would finally recognize the history, economic benefit and personal sacrifices that patients, staff, and community gave to this historic time.

If there are others who have an interest in this endeavor, we invite you to contact us, share your stories, provide financial donations and or effort to this project. Contact and donations (we will set up a bank account dedicated to this) can be made to:

Spencer State Hospital Memorial Fund
C/O Chuck Conner
146 Williams Drive
Spencer, WV 25276
304-927-8182