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Alabama’s legacy of leadership in mental health treatment revived with opening of Bryce Hospital Museum

In 1861, Bryce Hospital was first opened in Tuscaloosa to help humanely treat those with mental disorders. 150 years later, the hospital closed down in 2014 and sat vacant until a plan to turn it into a mental and civil rights museum was proposed.

On Friday, the Bryce Hospital Museum officially opened on the University of Alabama’s campus, reminding all those who visit of the state’s contributions to the study of mental health and the implementation of treatments.

Bryce Hospital was of special importance to state leaders for decades. Governor Lurleen Wallace made historical investments in mental health after touring Bryce — when Governor Kay Ivey was an intern for her. Under Governor Riley, the Wyatt case was settled changing mental health policy nationally and internationally. The lawsuit filed on behalf of a patient at Bryce was the longest running in state history.

Before the creation of the Alabama Department of Mental Health, three mental health facilities existed in the state: Bryce Hospital, Searcy Hospital, and Partlow Developmental Center. Bryce had supervisory authority over the other two locations.

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At a ceremony marking the opening of the museum, Alabama Speaker of the House Nathaniel Ledbetter (R-Rainsville) told attendees that Alabama will reaffirm its work and storied progress in the field of mental health.

“The Bryce Museum is a testament to our state’s renewed commitment to supporting
mental health care,” said House Speaker Nathaniel Ledbetter. “It’s been an honor to work with Governor Ivey, Commissioner Boswell and many remarkable private partners and advocates to expand access to mental health care in Alabama.”

“Our work has only just begun, and I look forward to our continued efforts to move Alabama’s crisis care system forward.”

Commissioner of the Alabama Department of Mental Health, Kimberly Boswell, acknowledged the state’s history of mental health innovation and development.

“We are proud to open the Bryce Hospital Museum, honoring the profound history of
mental health care in Alabama,” said Boswell. “Bryce Hospital has been a cornerstone in the state’s journey of mental health care and as a beacon of innovation and service.”

Austen Shipley is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on X @ShipleyAusten

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