Brenham State School is one of thirteen residential institutions for the intellectually disabled operated under authority of the board of the Texas Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation, a nine-member board appointed by the governor. It was established through the General Appropriations Act of the Sixty-first Legislature in 1969 and was the culmination of efforts by Speaker of the House Gus F. Mutscher and members of the Brenham Industrial Foundation headed by Paul F. La Roche. As a legislator, Mutscher had long been a champion of handicapped Texans, and La Roche and the Industrial Foundation were interested in having a state facility in Washington County for economic reasons. Thus, an alliance was formed that expanded state services for intellectually disabled citizens and offered a substantial economic boon to the area. Brenham was considered an acceptable location for a state school by the Board of Mental Health and Mental Retardation because of its proximity to the populous Gulf Coast. The Industrial Foundation offered an additional incentive by pledging a site. A 211-acre property inside the city limits was purchased by the Industrial Foundation from the Linda Giddings Anderson family, and Washington County Judge Otis Tomachefsky assisted with transfer of the property to the state in 1970. Initial construction was begun in February 1971 by general contractor K. A. Sparks.
Brenham State School opened in January 1974 with a residential bed capacity of 384 and staff numbering 214. Major expansion projects started in 1974 and 1980 increased the capacity to 552. In 1992 the workforce stood at 1,043. The facility was accredited in 1976 by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Hospitals, using standards for residential facilities for the intellectually disabled published in 1971. It was the first residential facility in Texas to achieve accreditation and because of this distinction has continuously been viewed as a model. The Community Services Division of Brenham State School was established in 1972 and has been accreditated since 1984. It was the first community-services program in the state to affiliate with a local Housing and Urban Development-funded project to provide low-rent housing to the intellectually disabled. Col. H. T. Ray, executive director of the Brenham Housing Authority, was instrumental in obtaining approval from HUD to use this method of funding to construct the first new residential dwellings in the nation designed specifically for the intellectually disabled. The first two homes built are still in use. The 1992 book value of state-owned buildings at Brenham State School was $10,002,776, and property was valued at approximately $400,000. The operating budget for fiscal year 1992 was $21,060,555. Turnover in personnel has historically remained below 15 percent a year. Recruitment and retention of professional and paraprofessional staff has been accomplished with relative ease because of the many amenities of the community and its geographic relationship to Houston, Austin, and Bryan-College Station. The current trend in the United States is towards community-based services for the intellectually disabled. Two of the present state schools (Fort Worth and Travis) are scheduled for closure by 1999. However, the prospect for continued operation of Brenham seems good because of its outstanding record of service delivery, operational efficiency, and community support.