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SAMHSA Press Releases

Date: August 31, 2006
Media Contact: SAMHSA Press
Telephone: 240-276-2130


New Exhibit Opens at SAMHSA

The Lives They Left Behind: Suitcases From a State Hospital Attic


In observance of "The Year of the Consumer 2006", the exhibition The Lives They Left Behind: Suitcases From a State Hospital Attic debuts on September 11th  at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) in Rockville, Maryland. Previews of the exhibit begin September 1st.

In 1995, during the closure of the Willard Psychiatric Center in New York’s Finger Lakes region, several hundred suitcases filled with the personal belongings of former patients were discovered in the hospital attic.  The suitcases and their contents bear witness to the rich, complex lives these people led before they were hospitalized at Willard.  

The traveling exhibit features pictures and stories that illustrate the ordinary lives led by people dealing with hardships -- hardships that sealed their fate to a lifetime in a mental hospital. The exhibit was created by The Community Consortium, an organization of people with psychiatric histories and their allies, to honor the memories of these people and others like them who were removed from their communities and institutionalized in the early-mid 20th century.  The exhibit is circulated by The Exhibition Alliance of Hamilton, New York.

The exhibit is open to the general public from 8:30-5:00 p.m. daily until September 27 in the first floor historical and waiting rooms. To make an appointment to see the exhibit, please contact Carole Schauer at (240) 276-1948 or or Carlton Speight at (240) 276-1949 or   

  WHAT: Exhibit Opening Ceremony

A. Kathryn Power, Director, Center for Mental Health Services 
Darby Penney, President, Community Consortium

  WHEN: Monday, September 11, 2006
2:30 p.m.
  WHERE: SAMHSA, Sugarloaf Room
1 Choke Cherry Road
Rockville, Maryland


SAMHSA, is a public health agency within the Department of Health and Human Services. The agency is responsible for improving the accountability, capacity and effectiveness of the nation’s substance abuse prevention, addictions, treatment, and mental health services delivery system.



SAMHSA is An Agency of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Service