Dorothea Dix Hospital

Right Image Photography, Inc.

Mental healthcare practices in the United States have changed quite a bit in the past two centuries. State hospitals and asylums once housed the great majority of mentally ill individuals, but definitions for what constituted mental illness were often vague and included conditions like epilepsy and PMS. In the 1950s and 60s, government officials pushed towards the deinstitutionalization of mental health care, and many individuals experiencing mental illness were released into the community.

Dorothea Dix campus
Ted Buckner / Flickr/Creative Commons

Governor Pat McCrory’s administration and Raleigh leaders have reached an agreement for the city to buy the old Dorothea Dix campus in order to create a park. Advocates have lobbied for years to create a grand city park on the 307-acre property, but those efforts were frustrated until now.

Governor McCrory and Raleigh’s mayor, Nancy McFarlane, held a joint news conference Monday at the executive mansion. They spoke before an audience of park advocates, state lawmakers and members of the business community who’ve long supported the idea to re-purpose the Dorothea Dix campus.  

Dorothea Dix Hospital in Raleigh
Dave DeWitt

The state has released new documents about negotiations to sell the Dorothea Dix Hospital Campus to Raleigh. While an agreement looks close the two parties still haven't settled all the terms.

The state and the city both agree that $52 million is a fair price for the 308-acre property.

The problem is that Raleigh wants to buy the land outright, and build a destination park there. But the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services campus is on the property, and the state doesn't plan to move it.

a pharmicist
NC Department of Health and Human Services

Behavioral health clinics in Wake County are shutting down today. That means about 2,000 people who have mental illnesses and rely on Medicaid are transitioning to treatment from private providers, but the county has been under a time crunch to transfer patients and some doctors worry theirs are falling through the cracks.

Margery Sved is a psychiatrist with Wake County Health and Human Services and one of 200 people who are being laid off today.

Dorothea Dix Hospital in Raleigh
Dave DeWitt

Governor Pat McCrory and Raleigh mayor Nancy McFarlane want some extra time to decide how to utilize 325 acres of prime capital city real estate. 

The two announced today that they are backing House legislation to give the city and state another year to negotiate an agreement to re-purpose the Dorothea Dix property

Raleigh leaders want to use the land as a destination park.  McCrory says he understands and supports that.

Dorothea Dix Hospital in Raleigh
Dave DeWitt

Lawmakers have passed a bill that would scrap a lease deal signed by the state and the city of Raleigh to create a destination park on the old Dix hospital campus.

Senators passed the measure 29-to-21, with several Wake County Republican senators voting against it.

Dozens of Wake County residents filled a legislative committee room yesterday to weigh in on several controversial bills affecting the county.

One of the measures would scrap the lease between the state and the city of Raleigh to create a destination park on the site of the old Dorothea Dix hospital.

Dorothea Dix Hospital Sign in Raleigh
Dave DeWitt

A Senate committee has passed a measure  that would void a deal signed three months ago to turn Raleigh's Dix hospital site into a destination park.

The Senate Appropriations Committee would void a 99-year lease signed amid great fanfare by the mayor of Raleigh and former Governor Bev Perdue. Under the deal, the city would pay $500,000 a year plus yearly adjustments to lease the land.

Raleigh mayor Nancy McFarlane and Fmr. Gov. Bev Perdue
City of Raleigh

State legislative leaders have filed bills that would revamp the deal that allows the city of Raleigh to create a regional park on the grounds of a closed mental hospital. The proposed legislation would nullify the lease agreement signed by Governor Beverly Perdue on her way out of office.

Preservation groups in Raleigh say the city should protect the historic buildings on the Dorothea Dix Hospital campus. The city council plans to convert the property into a public park. The state leased the land to Raleigh last month for $68 million over 75 years. But the Raleigh City Council has yet to create a master plan for the future park. Myrick Howard is the president of Preservation North Carolina:

Raleigh is on its way to having a destination park like New York's Central Park and Chicago's Millenium Park. The Council of State voted earlier today six-to-2 to approve leasing the state-owned Dorothea Dix property to the City of Raleigh for 75 years. The City will pay 5 hundred thousand dollars a year, with a 1-point-5 percent annual increase.

Some Republican legislative leaders have criticized the deal, most notably Senate President Phil Berger. He says he's considering legal action to terminate the lease. But Governor Bev Perdue says Berger and other opponents are misguided.

Park Boosters On Dix Campus
Jessica Jones

Civic groups in Raleigh advocating the creation of a public park on what is now the Dorothea Dix hospital campus have pledged three million dollars toward the effort. The Council of State is scheduled to vote today whether to allow the City of Raleigh to lease the land from the state.

On Tuesday, North Carolina’s Council of State is expected to decide whether to lease a huge tract of land to the City of Raleigh to create a park. The more than 300 acre site is home to what used to be the state’s Dorothea Dix psychiatric hospital, which is now closed. Many civic and business leaders support the idea of creating a downtown park in Raleigh. But lawmakers have spoken out against it, saying Governor Perdue is moving too quickly with the project.

Dorothea Dix Hospital
wral.com

On Tuesday, the North Carolina Council of State is expected to vote on the future of the Dorothea Dix campus. The 300-acre former mental hospital is prime real estate. Gov. Bev Perdue appears on the verge of making a deal to sell or offer a long-term lease to the city of Raleigh for a "destination park." But not everyone is excited about that prospect, including the Governor-Elect Pat McCrory. WUNC Reporter Jessica Jones joins Host Frank Stasio to discuss the deal and its prospects.

It's the end of an era. The last mental health patient has been transferred from Dorothea Dix hospital in Raleigh to the newer Central Regional in Butner. The closure has been in the works for more than a decade. Lucky Welsh oversees the network of state psychiatric hospitals for the Department of Health and Human Services:

Dix Closure Imminent

Dec 8, 2010
Dorothea Dix Hospital
NC DHHS

It looks like the closure of Dorothea Dix hospital will be almost complete by the year's end.   The state-run psychiatric facility in Raleigh has been slated for closure for years under the state's mental health reform. The only patients to remain on the downtown campus will be 30 minimum security criminal patients.