About San Antonio State Hospital

A Brief History

San Antonio State Hospital (SASH), as you see it today, is a far different place than existed more than 100 years ago. In 1892, the Southwest Lunatic Asylum opened on the southern edge of San Antonio. Nestled among pecan trees and situated on 640 acres, the pastoral setting, with its tree-lined main entrance on South Presa Street, offered "asylum" in the truest sense of the word. The asylum was a self-contained living environment. Crops and livestock were raised on the grounds, which at the time included the land across South Presa. A large lake provided fishing and recreational activities for the patients. All staff members lived on the grounds and had to obtain permission to leave. The hospital grounds also included a cemetery where patients were buried when other arrangements were not possible. It was not until 1925 that the words "lunatic" and "asylum" were removed from the titles of mental institutions and replaced by "state hospital."

In the beginning, each mental hospital was managed by its own individual Board of Managers which reported directly to the Governor. In 1920, mental facilities were placed under the State Board of Control. In 1949, state hospitals were placed under the direction of the nine-member Governor appointed Board of Texas State Hospitals and Special Schools.

Between 1950 and 1970, SASH became increasingly crowded. During these times, as many as 3,000 patients were treated by staff numbering 300. Today, approximately 302 patients received treatment with staff numbering 912.

Increasing research and awareness of mental health issues resulted in the 1965 Texas Legislature passing the Texas Mental Health and Mental Retardation Act. This act established the Texas Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation (TDMHMR). The agency’s purpose was to conserve and restore the mental health of Texas citizens and to help people with mental retardation achieve their potential.

Last updated April 8, 2011