The Packard Mental Health Center supports more than 120 patients with serious mental illness in Springfield
SPRINGFIELD - Today, Governor JB Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) announced a new name for the McFarland Mental Health Center. By executive proclamation, it is now officially the Elizabeth Parsons Ware Packard Mental Health Center. On signage and in common use, it will become known simply as the Packard Mental Health Center. Located on the south side of Springfield, the psychiatric hospital employs more than 250 staff and supports over 120 patients with serious mental illness on a 24/7 basis.
"Today, we are putting a spotlight on the real hero associated with this institution, someone who in truth better expresses our proud history of positive reform and someone who changed our world for the better," said Governor JB Pritzker. "Here in Illinois, we are committed to righting the wrongs of the past wherever we can. Renaming this Center in honor of Elizabeth Packard, who founded the Anti-Insane Asylum Society and pushed multiple states to reform their laws to better recognize the rights of mental health patients, is an important step in the right direction."
"The renaming of the Packard Mental Health Center in memory of Elizabeth Packard comes as a reminder that for too long, systems worked to repress and discount the voices of women and individuals in psychiatric facilities. But Elizabeth Packard's legacy lives on to show us that a commitment to truth and justice can break down barriers and build toward something greater," said Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton. "Today, we honor her experiences and contributions by working to ensure we continue to do better as leaders, and by creating opportunities that uplift and support every resident so they are seen, heard, and can live with dignity."
The name change was initiated by staff at IDHS/Division of Mental Health and was supported by grassroots advocates in an online petition. The announcement comes at a time when IDHS is further transforming its approach to the care of individuals living with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
In 1860, Packard was institutionalized against her will in the (now-closed) Illinois State Asylum and Hospital for the Insane in Jacksonville. At the time, Illinois law allowed men to have their wives involuntarily committed. Packard disagreed with her husband, a Calvinist priest, over religious doctrine, and on issues including women's rights and slavery.
Dr. Andrew McFarland was the superintendent of the Illinois State Asylum for the Insane in Jacksonville from 1854 to 1869. Following Packard's release from the Illinois State Asylum, Packard became a fierce and visible advocate for the rights of women and psychiatric patients, and successfully advocated for passage of a "Bill for the Protection of Personal Liberty" in 1867. Dr. McFarland opposed this effort and was also against independent state inspections of mental health facilities. Nevertheless, when the State built a hospital in Springfield in 1968, it named the facility after McFarland.
"The work of Elizabeth Packard is still seen today as we carry on the fight to remove the stigma surrounding mental health," said State Senator Doris Turner, (D-Springfield). "As a strong advocate for mental health, I will follow in Elizabeth's footsteps and prioritize expanding access and increasing affordability to mental health services across the state."
"People like Elizabeth Packard inspire us and teach us how to do better for those struggling with mental illness. Our system must be informed by people with lived experiences," said Grace B. Hou, Secretary, Illinois Department of Human Services. "This reckoning with our state's history reminds us why our dedication to efforts such as IDHS's Peer Recovery Support Training Program is necessary."
Best-selling author Kate Moore published The Woman They Could Not Silence about Packard in 2021. This non-fiction book tells the story of Packard's involuntary commitment and chronicles Dr. McFarland's role in keeping her inappropriately confined. Since the book's release, staff and community members have questioned the appropriateness of keeping Dr. McFarland's name on the building. In January 2023, an online petition was created, calling on the State to rename the facility.
"I am delighted for Elizabeth that this mental health center is being renamed in her honor, and I have no doubt she would be thrilled too. In her lifetime, she was denigrated and dismissed as a madwoman because she stood up for those in need, but today we honor her courageous stance and her remarkable achievements," said Kate Moore. "It is fitting, too, that Elizabeth's name replaces that of her tormentor and doctor, McFarland. She always warned him she was not mad, simply ahead of her time, and today, at long last, her truth is heard. Truly the woman they could not silence, Elizabeth deserves this honor deeply and I am so grateful to the Governor and the State for recognizing this very special woman."
This renaming reflects the State's commitment to righting the wrongs of the past, while celebrating the contributions of those who have historically been overlooked.
"Though the names granted to public monuments and facilities -which have historically represented the political values at the moment-have literally been etched in stone, values, fortunately in many cases, are less firmly fixed," said Community Behavioral Healthcare Association CEO Blanca Campos. "Renaming the McFarland Center for Elizabeth Parsons Ware Packard recognizes that her revolutionary social justice vision of mental health care and women's rights in 1867 fits comfortably with values of the State of Illinois in 2023."
"The Illinois State Museum is happy to support this initiative to change the name of the hospital," said Jenn Edginton, Interim Director, Director of Interpretation, Illinois State Museum. "Elizabeth Packard was an amazing woman, who fought for rights of those who didn't have a voice at the time. Her activism can be remembered through this name change."
"The symbolism of changing the name of this institution is so important as we continue to work toward the equity of women in our society," said Vickie Smith, President and CEO, Illinois Coalition Against Domestic Violence. "This story is important for us all to understand that domestic violence is built on the legacy of this kind of power men have had over women."
"The Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault (ICASA) applauds the decision to rename McFarland Mental Health Center in recognition of Elizabeth Parsons Ware Packard and the many women who, like her, endured involuntary confinement and struggled to assert their independence and autonomy," said Carrie Ward, CEO, ICASA. "ICASA supports the rights of all women to make decisions regarding their own physical, mental, and emotional health."