LOON LAKE STATE HOSPITAL
In 1937 the Minnesota legislature a commission was formed to locate a sixth state hospital in northern Minnesota. The commission was headed by the newly graduated Mayo Clinic psychiatrist, Dr. Clyde Plotzie. They selected land in proximity to the iron range near Hibbing Minnesota. Construction began in May 1937. The pioneering Dr. Clyde Plotzie was appointed the new medical director and superintendent. Nurse Triplet transferred from Moose Lake State Hospital to oversee the new admissions.
With Dr. Plotzie’s exact specifications, and sanctioned by The American Psychiatric association, it was designed to be an independent community, with administration, medical center, kitchen, bakery, laundry, working farm, greenhouse, fishing pond, outdoor trails, zoo, powerhouse and sewage disposal units, dormitories for patients, a nurses’ home, and a modest superintendent’s residence. In 1949 two buildings for male and female dipsomaniacs were opened, along with a combination auditorium, library, and occupational therapy building. It was all to function as a small self-sustaining town.
On May 2, 1939 the hospital accepted its first patients from the Fergus Falls and St. Peter State hospitals. Over the years, more were to follow, some from state schools who had aged out, private homes, prisons and hospitals. Among them were Shirley Jean Turchin, a transfer from Moose Lake State Hospital, Mamie Gross a transfer from Faribault State Hospital, Tiny McGurran from Ramsey County, Bella VonHorten from Hennepin County and Georgie Plotzie from a private residence.
Early treatments used at the hospital included insulin, electroshock, hydrotherapy, sterilization and physiotherapy. In the 1950s lobotomies were performed on some patients.
Major breakthroughs in treating the residents of Look Lake came after World War Two with the development of groundbreaking psychiatric drugs. Finally, with effective anti-psychotics to treat schizophrenia, and anti-depressants, care vastly improved for the patients of Loon Lake. The ability to control the spiraling symptoms of psychosis or wake someone out of a deep depression was a massive step forward. For the first time many patients were able to live more ‘normal’ lives inside and, on occasion, outside of the confines of asylums and mental hospitals
In 1966 a program for adolescents was begun, in which some of the participants attended public school and gained high school credits.
The patient population consisted of persons of all ages representing all types and degrees of mental disability, many of whom are only physically infirmed, not mentally.
In the 1970’s major changes were about to happen.