On March 8, 1882, the Mississippi State Legislature approved enabling legislation to establish the East Mississippi State Insane Asylum. This came about largely due to the efforts of Miss Dorothea Dix, a champion for the mentally ill in the United States. The city of Meridian purchased and donated 560 acres of land for the construction of the facility. The asylum opened its doors for service in January of 1885, with a 19 year old man from Meridian as the first Individuals Receiving Services(IRS). In the years 1893 and 1894, three native magnolia trees and three Japanese magnolia trees were planted in front of the Administration Building. These trees make a beautiful entrance to the hospital even today. The name of the institution was changed from East Mississippi State Insane Asylum to East Mississippi Insane Hospital in 1898, and finally to East Mississippi State Hospital in the early 1930s, perhaps reflecting changes in attitudes toward the mentally ill nationwide. During the early years the hospital was almost self-sufficient with farming facilities, a hog farm, a cattle farm, a dairy barn, a poultry plant, and orchards of peach, apple, pear and pecan trees. A canning plant was built to process the produce. In the mid-1950s, the hospital realized much progress toward becoming a modern psychiatric hospital. Since its beginning, the hospital had provided for only custodial purposes but during the 1950s it began to develop treatment services for the IRS. With adequate and well-trained medical and psychiatric staff, the various kinds of therapies and the use of the buildings was converted into a skilled level nursing facility in order to provide nursing home services for those IRS who no longer required psychiatric care but were in need of more medical and nursing services.
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