State to recognize centennial of Torrance State Hospital in Derry Township
Sandra Ewing Robertson is a third-generation resident of Torrance, a village in Derry Township, and was raised in the shadow of Torrance State Hospital — which this year marks 100 years of caring for and treating patients with mental illness.
“I think it’s a good thing the state is recognizing the role it’s played. I may go to some of the events myself since it’s been a part of my life and my family’s lives,” Robertson said.
Robertson, 58, who lives with her mother, Betty Ewing, said her grandparents bought a farm in Torrance, moving from Hannastown in 1947. She said her late father, Ken, also once worked at the hospital.
Robertson recalled days when she used to see patients working in the hospital’s farm fields.
“The hospital was a lot more self sufficient back before the 1970s,” she said. “I remember when they used to allow the patients to walk around, and some used to walk down and visit my grandparents’ farm.
“Now, rarely do you see any patients. It’s changed a lot over the years.”
In November 1919, five patients were transferred from Danville State Hospital in Dauphin County to Torrance, marking the start of the hospital, said Teresa Miller, Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services.
The patient population once grew to around 3,000 in the last century. There are currently more than 300 patients in three divisions of the hospital.
“Mental illness and substance use disorders affect Pennsylvanians from all walks of life,” Miller said in a statement. “Over the last century, Torrance State Hospital has provided high-quality services to individuals living with serious mental illnesses. The department is committed to increasing awareness, decreasing stigma and providing quality care to these individuals so that all Pennsylvanians who need assistance can get it.”
Miller said the face of mental health treatment has changed significantly over the years to include a focus on recovery, community reintegration and consumer-driven services.
To begin the centennial celebration, the public is invited to a worship service and reception at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday in the McKinnis Auditorium on the hospital campus. Former patients and staff are extended a special invitation.
Anyone wishing to attend should RSVP with hospital employee Mary Galinac at 724-459-4453.
Later plans include opening a historical museum on the hospital grounds, encasing a time capsule and other events throughout the year. Date will be announced later.
Paul Peirce is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Paul at 724-850-2860, email@example.com or via Twitter @ppeirce_trib.