When Nevada first became a state it did not have any facilities available to care for the mentally ill. Until 1882 when the Nevada Insane Asylum was completed, Nevada paid the state of California to care for their “indigent insane.” The Nevada Insane Asylum, which was later renamed the Nevada Hospital for Mental Diseases, opened its doors in 1883 and one hundred and forty eight “inmates” were transferred from Stockton, California to Nevada’s new hospital.
The Asylum was located three miles outside of Reno and operated as a working farm in order to provide food for patients, who were known as inmates. They grew alfalfa, fruit trees and vegetables, raised cattle, pigs, and chickens, and had facilities for dairy production. The Truckee Rover provided irrigation via ditches and later on the river powered a generator for electricity. The facility was basically self-sufficient and included numerous support buildings as well, including barns, maintenance shops, a boiler plant, laundry, a morgue, and a cemetery. Until the late 1930’s, many patients lived their entire adult lives at the facility and were buried on the grounds.
Over the years, the Asylum suffered neglect by the Nevada Legislature. Beautiful as it was, the original building was poorly constructed and in constant need of repair. The Superintendents continually asked for funds from the legislature for improvements but most of the time, nothing was done until desperate measures were needed. Adding to the repair problems was continual patient population growth. One reason for the population growth was the admission of "...old, harmless, incurable, idiotic and imbecile patients..." by the counties in which they lived in order to relieve the county of the expense of caring for them.
The Biennial Reports in this series show include lists of names of those admitted for care and cover a broad range of topics ranging from treatment methods to the physical infrastructure.