As we embark on our #ThrowbackThursday journey for #MentalHealthAwarenessMonth this May, we are peaking into the history of the Connecticut Valley Hospital (CVH).

Connecticut Valley Hospital (CVH) opened in 1868 as the State’s public hospital for the treatment of persons with mental illness. Throughout its history, it has experienced many medical, social and political changes, all of which have affected such facilities. CVH has a cemetery in one part of that campus. All the gravestones have numbers — no names, no date of birth/death, no memorials. Why? Because when individuals died their families did not want the family name listed on the gravestones. 

In 1995, the Governor and General Assembly through a statewide restructuring of services for persons with psychological and addiction disabilities called for a renewed commitment to specialized treatment at CVH. They expanded community options for patients and staff while closing two other hospitals and consolidating inpatient services at CVH. The hospital became the amalgamation of four formerly freestanding psychiatric hospitals, four freestanding substances use disorder treatment facilities, and one maximum security hospital. As part of the changes, CVH built a memorial that lists the numbered gravestones with the person’s name. 

Then in 2010, the former Cedarcrest Regional Hospital (with 2 campuses – Cedar Ridge campus in Newington and Blue Hills campus in Hartford) consolidated services with CVH. On May 1, 2018, the Whiting Forensic Division of CVH separated, creating two separate hospitals; Connecticut Valley Hospital (CVH) and Whiting Forensic Hospital (WFH). Today, CVH is comprised of 17 inpatient units over two campuses (Middletown and Hartford). 

All the services provided by CVH are designed with “Recovery to Wellness” as their operational framework. Recovery is a process of restoring or developing a positive and meaningful sense of identity apart from one’s condition and then rebuilding one’s life in the fullest sense. Recovery is an individualized patient-centered approach. Achieving and maintaining an optimal state of health and wellness is integrated in our recovery approach. Individuals acquire and practice life skills that will assist them in their recovery process. 

One of the major tenets of recovery is that individuals are responsible for their own lives and therefore are responsible agents in their own recovery. Individuals have a real chance at reclaiming full and productive lives if they are given access to treatments, services, and programs vital to recovery. 

These programs and services have been designed based on determination of individuals’ need, in accordance with the Mission of its Governing Board, the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (DMHAS), and in collaboration with community providers, families, advocates, consumer groups and other customers of services. The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) is also the Chair of the Governing Body of the Hospital and is appointed by the Commissioner of the DMHAS according to Connecticut General Statutes. Operational reporting to the Department is through the Assistant to the Commissioner within the Office of the Commissioner. 

Almost all of the programs offered today have a statewide constituency and most patients are admitted upon referral and evaluation for admission. 

Exploring history offers us profound lessons on both our triumphs and trials. By delving into our past, we cultivate a greater understanding of the path that has shaped our present reality.  

Stay tuned for more Throwback Thursday posts as we delve deeper into the rich history of mental health in Connecticut throughout May. 

Thank you to the Connecticut Museum of Culture and History for partnering with MHC for #ThrowbackThursday as a part of our Let’s Face It campaign.

Click here to support the #LetsFaceIt campaign! 

Join us each day in May to hear from community partners, staff, and MHC participants on how they #FaceIt. View past posts here.  

Looking for resources or support in CT but don’t know where to start? Visit MHC’s Resource Directory at https://www.mhconn.org/education/resources/