What was the care like at Morningside Hospital?

The story of the hospital and the transition to building a care system over several decades is fascinating and sometimes quite heartbreaking. Lets face it –the standards of what we deem acceptable treatment for persons with mental illness and other conditions has evolved dramatically and for the better in the last one hundred years. Morningside Hospital presented itself as a sanitary, humane, and medically focused facility for the care of people the Territory of Alaska did not want. Government oversight of the program existed because the Interior Department was paying the bill. Investigations occurred from time to time with no real result until the U. S. House of Representatives launched a series of investigations into the care and the finances of the Hospital in the late 1950’s.

These investigations revealed widespread financial abuse by the Coe family–subverting money intended for care of patients to items of personal gain like trips and art.. And there were substantial questions raised about care. These hearings laid the groundwork for the passage of the Alaska Mental Health Enabling Act of 1956. The enabling act, championed by Alaska Rep Bob Bartlett and Rep Edith Green of Portland set the stage for the termination of the arrangement the federal government had with the Coe Family to use Morningside Hospital.

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