Research

Patient case files

Held by the New York State Archives


Overview of the Records

Repository:

New York State Archives

New York State Education Department

Cultural Education Center

Albany, NY 12230

Summary:
This series consists of case files of patients who died, discharged, or were transferred to other institutions, from Willowbrook State School. Case files document patients' admission, treatment, therapy, and education. They typically contain admission records; records of visitors and correspondents; psychiatrist, physician, and social worker reports and notes; school reports; physical examination information; prescription and dental records; clothing lists; correspondence from other institutions; and information regarding the circumstances under which patients left the care of Willowbrook Records are restricted.
Creator:
Title:
Quantity:
246 cu. ft.
Inclusive Dates:
1950-1985
Series Number:
19452

Arrangement

Roughly alphabetical by patient last name.

Administrative History

Willowbrook State School was constructed in the late 1930s as a model school for the mentally retarded, and to help relieve overcrowding at an institution in Rockland County. It was ceded to the control of the Veterans Administration in 1942, serving as a hospital for the wounded during the war years. By 1952, residents had moved in and the institution became responsible for housing some of New York's most severely mentally disabled children. Willowbrook's population differed considerably from that of other state schools. It was the only school to receive children under age 5 (it had up to 90 residents during the 1950s). Willowbrook received persons from New York City or by transfer from other state schools. Most of the transfers were severely retarded, handicapped, and/or undisciplined cases. Furthermore, Willowbrook had the highest percentage of black and Hispanic residents of any state school. Originally named the Willowbrook Home for the Retarded, the facility was known as the Willowbrook State School from 1947 to 1975.

By the 1970s, the institution had become notorious for its bad living conditions and treatment of clients. Prompted by widespread public outrage and a grass-roots movement by clients' relatives, in 1972 the New York Civil Liberties Union filed a class-action lawsuit against the state and then governor Nelson Rockefeller. In 1975, a federal judge issued a consent decree for the deinstitutionalization of most of Willowbrook's residents; the school was required to reduce its population from 5,300 to 250. Residents who had family in the immediate New York City area were placed in the Staten Island Developmental Disabilities Services Office, and all others were transferred to state facilities and community homes that could accommodate them. The Willowbrook State School, which had been renamed the Staten Island Developmental Center, closed in 1988.

Scope and Content Note

This series consists of case files of patients who died while residing at Willowbrook. The case files document patients' admission, treatment, therapy, and education. Case files typically contain admission phase sheets; records of visitors and correspondents; ward admission records; legal admission records; psychiatrist's psychological reports; Willowbrook school reports; physical examination information; progress notes by doctor; social service notes by case social worker; laboratory notes; consultation requests (for x-rays, etc.) signed by doctor; prescription records; nurses notes; dental and weight charts; medication records; clothing lists; and correspondence from other institutions.

19452-03: The vast majority of the case files in this accretion pertain to patients who were transferred to other institutions or otherwise discharged from Willowbrook. A small percentage of the files pertain to patients who died while residing at Willowbrook. In addition to the types of documents described in the initial series description, these files contain information regarding the circumstances under which patients left the care of Willowbrook. Files document date of transfer or discharge, destination of patient, and in some cases clinical assessment of patient at time of discharge.

Use of Records

Access Restrictions

Restricted in accordance with Mental Hygiene Law relating to confidentiality of clinical records.Permanently.

Related Information

Related Materials

Series 21101, Case files of former Willowbrook consumers, contains similar records that document Willowbrook patients' admission, treatment, therapy, and education.

Other finding aids

Folder list.

Access Terms

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