During World War II, a corps of conscientious objectors across the United States chose to fulfill their obligation by performing Civilian Public Service (CPS) rather than serving in the military. These men, working without pay, were assigned by the government to large work projects. Some expressed a desire to perform more meaningful service and were assigned to help in state mental health institutions. What they saw were deplorable conditions: wards were so crowded that the floors could not be seen and patients were naked and restrained with straps and locks.
The Mennonite Community Rallies to the Cause
The Mennonite Church developed a vision of care for those with mental illness based on the theology of healing. A committee was created and a master plan called for three locations throughout the country. The proposed eastern site was a 115-acre farm in Leitersburg, Maryland, that previously served as a CPS Camp focused on soil conservation. A number of buildings already existed along a dirt lane that ran parallel to a small winding brook. The Leitersburg proposal was approved and the site was named Brook Lane Farm. A 23-bed hospital was built and the first patients were admitted in January 1949.
The early staff was almost exclusively volunteers and conscientious objectors and lived on the farm. As the facility had a dual nature of psychiatric hospital and working farm, the staff and patients worked side by side, washing and ironing clothes, cooking, baking, cleaning, gardening, planting and harvesting crops in the fields, and completing construction and maintenance work. In 1959, Brook Lane Farm incorporated with its own local board of directors and changed its name to Brook Lane Farm Hospital. In 1962 the chapel was built and dedicated. Throughout its growth, Brook Lane continued to embrace religious principles as the core of its culture. Another name change came in 1965, when Brook Lane Farm Hospital officially became Brook Lane Psychiatric Center.
Expanding Programs & Services
In 1993, an outpatient services location opened off the main campus that today is called North Village. Laurel Hall Special Education School opened on the main campus in 1994. In 1997, Brook Lane Psychiatric Center changed its name to Brook Lane Health Services to encompass all of the various programs and services provided. In 2008, a second Laurel Hall School opened in Frederick. In 2010, Brook Lane launched THRIVE, an Autism-friendly program that provides children with special needs psychiatric care, as well as physical, occupational and speech therapy servicess, at our North Village Outpatient location. Also in 2010, Brook Lane began offering an annual calendar of continuing education seminars to help area mental health professionals meet their licensure requirements.
In 2011, a partial hospitalization program for adults opened on the main campus. Brook Lane’s Outpatient office in Frederick settled into a permanent home in 2012. In 2018 InSTEP, Brook Lane’s integrated substance use treatment program, began at the North Village location. In the summer of 2022, Brook Lane added Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) to our lineup of programs and services.
Brook Lane Today
Over the past 70+ years, several wings were added to the hospital and many additions and changes have been made to the various programs and services we provide for our community. Today, Brook Lane has more than 500 employees in three locations. The main campus in Hagerstown is home to a 58-bed hospital, the second largest freestanding psychiatric hospital in Maryland. We provide a partial hospitalization, or day treatment program, for both adults and children on the main campus. Laurel Hall special education school has two locations: one on the main campus and one in Frederick. We have two outpatient locations, North Village in Hagerstown and Mack Avenue in Frederick. Both locations have licensed clinical staff who offer therapy for all ages. Our THRIVE program for children is located in our North Village Outpatient Offices. The InSTEP program provides outpatient and intensive outpatient treatment options for individuals with substance use treatment needs at North Village.
The School Based Mental Health program embeds Brook Lane therapists in all of the middle and high schools in Washington County, ready to provide needed therapy on site. Brook Lane also continues to be the leading provider of mental and behavioral health continuing education seminars and free community programs in the region.