Session 3 - Archiving the Asylum: Demystifying our Hidden Collections

Managing and preserving mental health records has long been a challenge, especially when stigma and laws like HIPAA pose barriers to accessing records that document the day-to-day lives of state hospital patients. However, state and local community groups in Texas are advocating for historical preservation and educational programming that respectfully navigate the state hospitals’ histories. Consumers of mental health services, mental health professionals, records managers, and archivists are leading the charge to unearth hidden collections that pay testament to how our state hospitals have historically served patients and changed over the years. Join us to learn more about how a diverse coalition of community members are demystifying Texas’ asylum’s histories, and discuss how your states and municipalities can embark on similar projects.

Most states do not have robust programs for preserving state hospital records, much less making archives accessible to the public within the confines of the law. State psychiatric facilities must first and foremost manage the coordination of care across institutions and protect health information through HIPAA and the Texas Medical Privacy Act. Over the past five years, Texas’ Health and Human Services Commission work groups issued recommendations to the State that balance patient privacy with accessibility, including hiring the Preservation and Grants Coordinator for the Texas state hospital system, establishing an oral history work group, supervising graduate student digitization and preservation projects, and much more.

In this session, the three presenters will speak to issues and successes ranging from the confidentiality concerns of mental health customers and state hospitals, creative options in sharing this history, providing grant funding for mental health initiatives, and ensuring HIPPA compliance and sensitivity towards archives that record mental health history.

Target Audiences: State/Tribal, Local, Public Institutions of Higher Learning

Focus Areas: Archives, Records Management, Technology/Tools

Speakers: D.D. Clark, Historic Preservation & Grant Coordinator Health & Human Service Commission, State Hospitals and Elizabeth Stauber, Archivist and Records Manager, Hogg Foundation for Mental Health and Jenna Cooper, Records Analyst, Austin History Center