Lost Hospital — Hissom Memorial Center, Sand Springs, Oklahoma0

As far back as 1909, Oklahoma first established services for individuals with mental disabilities (Oklahoma became a state in 1907).

Fifty years later, the Oklahoma legislature recognized the need to expand its mental health services, especially since the two existing facilities charged with the task were old and overcrowded.

In 1959, using land donated by Mr. and Mrs. Wiley Hissom, the construction of a new facility began near Sand Springs, Oklahoma. Built on 85 acres over a period of five years, and at an expense of $7 million, the Hissom Memorial Center opened on March 7, 1964.

The new facility’s design was innovative, and it was praised in the mental health industry. This was due in large part to Hissom Memorial’s decision to remove some 300 cage/cribs left over from the old mental health facility.

Hissom Memorial Center was comprised of 24 buildings, including modern medical facilities and dorm-like residences. Mental health facilities in Oklahoma were operated by the Department of Mental Health and Retardation until 1963.

On July 1, 1963, oversight of these institutions was transferred to the Department of Public Welfare.  At the time, all were operating at more than full capacity.

In the mid-1980s a group called Homeward Bound filed a lawsuit against Hissom Memorial Center. The lawsuit wanted to close the facility and relocate (and integrate) its patients into the community.

The lawsuit contended that a community-based environment was more humane and less expensive than institutionalization. In a highly publicized decision, a federal judge in 1987 ordered the facility closed. By 1994, the last patient left Hissom Memorial Center.

As of June 2001 there were 2954 people receiving services through community-based programs, including about 950 individuals who were part of the Hissom Memorial Center class.

In 2009, Oklahoma’s governor signed legislation authorizing the Oklahoma Department of Central Services to spend $3 million to demolish the site.

Photographs from Underground Ozarks and Abandoned Ok.

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