The above link, is to a page in Wikipedia about a man named Joe Root who spent some time living off the land in Erie, PA on Presque Isle. By now you may be wondering why I’m including this here since it seems like it wouldn’t apply to the general topic of this blog. Well, it kind of does apply. Joe Root, from what little I’ve read about him, apparently was an entertainer, and kids loved his ventrilloqy. Aside from entertaining children, it seems that Joe Root was a bit of a dreamer and came up with ideas like starting a feather factory among other ideas that others would listen to but seemed to find them o be more amusing then anything. I don’t know what kind of violence occurred, but some say that Joe Root was actually the victim of it some speculate it was to prevent him from collecting squater’s rights on Presque Isle. The details of the incident that I’ve found have been more like implied statements then anything, but they do indicate that because of this vaguely described violance, Joe Root was sent to Warren State Hospital in Warren, PA. He spent the rest of his life there from the sounds of things but was said to have repeatedly asked to return to his home on Presque Isle.
So when did this occurr? well based on Wikipedia, He lived on Presque Isle in the early 1900’s and was comitted to Warren State Hospital then known as “The State Hospital for the Insane at Warren, PA” the name was later changed to Warren Stae Hospital sometime around 1920 if memory serves me right. Anyway, Joe Root was committed there and died in 1912.
I guess my reason for sharingthis, is to give folks an idea of how in many ways there has been some if not a lot of progress in how folks with mental illnesses are treated today compared to then in the early days of Warren State. at that time people could be sent to a state hospital for just about any reason that anyone else thought made the person being comitted seem to not conform to society and while Joe Root seems like the kind of guy we might refer to as eccentric today, at the time, something occurred and someone didn’t agree with what happened probably claimed he was insane (using terminology for the time period) and under the authority of one person like a doctor, law enforcement or anyone that had any kind of authority he was sent to Warren State where I’m guessing he died since he died in 1912 just 2 years after he arrived at Warren State. Today it takes a team of people to have someone admitted to a state hospital, and in the current goal is to have the person ready for discharge in roughly 6 months to a year. Today, Joe Root would have needed to have been evaluated by a physician, and met certain criteria before he could have been admitted to Warren State. There is a lot more to the process, but there are more steps and criteria that need to be taken and met then there once was.
For folks who are in the mental health system receiving treatment, yes, there are many changes occurring and yes at this pointstate hospitals still exist, but to be sent to one isn’t as easy as it once was, and length of stay is much shorter on average then it was at the time that Joe Root was comitted.
I will close by saying that yes, treatment is better for folks with mental illnesses then it once was, but at the same time as with anything, I feel there is always room for improvement.
Disclaimer: While I am currently researching the History of Warren State Hospital, I have many questions left unanswered and Joe Root is just one piece of the puzzle. I do not intend this blog entry to be a precise or complete history, but rather a summary of things I’ve been reading about and some of my own thoughts based on experiences I have had in my own life. In short this is an opinion post based on many pieces of information. The information about Joe Root mostly came from Wikipedia, but some of what I said in regards to what the process of him ending up at Warren state is purely speculation based on my limited knowledge of how the system functioned at that time. I welcome any information anyone wants to send my way, and to be honest am really kind of intrigued with Joe Root’s story so he is someone I’m looking further into.