Big Spring State Hospital

By: Lorene Burns Barbee

Type: General Entry

Published: 1976

Updated: November 1, 1994

Big Spring State Hospital, on State Highway 87 two miles northwest of Big Spring, is a psychiatric facility that the Texas legislature voted to establish in 1937. Previously, patients from the vast region of West Texas had to be transported many miles away from their homes. Big Spring was selected partly because the city agreed to donate the land on which to build the hospital and partly because a permanent water supply was guaranteed. The hospital began receiving patients in June 1939.

The original complex had eight buildings. In 1990 it had grown to forty-three buildings, including an all-faith chapel, a school building, an outpatient clinic, a workshop, an enclosed swimming pool, a gymnasium, a four-building work village, a rehabilitation therapy building, a central kitchen, and a volunteer building. The hospital staff numbered over 900 employees. It once housed a maximum of 1,100 patients and now averages 324; about 1,800 admissions and discharges occur each year. The average length of stay is between thirty and ninety days. Emphasis is placed on quality treatment to shorten the period of illness. Treatments have expanded to include a full range of rehabilitation therapies, education, individual and group psychotherapy, and family intervention, in addition to medication. The new focus is on community-based programs, and in 1990 ten outreach clinics of the hospital operated throughout West Texas.

Big Spring State Hospital was the first Texas mental hospital to have its doors unlocked during the daylight hours. In cooperation with the local school district, it was first in the state to pilot an on-campus educational program; in 1990 it had a fully accredited school program on campus. It was the first to have a public-awareness program, specialty units for the treatment of adolescents and alcoholics, and both male and female patients in the same unit. The hospital was a pioneer in developing aftercare programs for the mentally ill. It was one of the first in the state to have an organized volunteer program. Big Spring State Hospital is financed through the Texas Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation and accredited by the Joint Commission of Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations and Medicare.

History of Howard County, 1882–1982 (Big Spring, Texas: Howard County Historical Commission, 1982).
  • Health and Medicine
  • State Hospitals

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Lorene Burns Barbee, “Big Spring State Hospital,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 18, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

November 1, 1994

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