Finding the place we dwelt on Bella Vista opened a door that was painfully closed long ago. I believe it was in 1974 that my sister, Vicki Presco, and my friend, Keith Purvis, took Susan Villiani off the grounds of Camarillo State Hospital;, and had driven north about fifty miles, when she told her rescuers she wanted to go back. They tried to change her mind, but, after her many shock treatments, and the heavy drugs she was given, she no longer had a free will. When her father told me she was getting shock treatments I begged him to go visit Sue. Two days later he calls me. He is crying.
“Greg….what have they done to my daughter. I hardly recognized her. They destroyed her. You were right!”
I never met Mr. Villiani. For the next minute we sobbed together on the phone. Sue was Christine Prescos best friend. They rented a appartment together and worked at McDonald Douglas. I told Mark Presco about the call, and he agreed to take me to Camarillo to see Sue. They seperated me from my brother, then, a administrator told me I could not see Sue alone, that she would be present. I got angry. Out of nowhere comes this huge nurse and she is hovering over me, breathing hard. I understand she is about to grab and restrain me. Kim Haffner reminded me of her. I was ordered to leave.
The next day I called the ACLU and they took the case. They discovered the doctor that gave Sue all those shock treatments, no longer worked there, and had moved back East to take another job.
“This is a cover-up, isn’t it.”
The attorney told me it was not an involuntary commitment, and Christine’s brothers could have left with with her high school friend – and they knew it! They deliberately created a scene, and employed the idea that I was out of control and need my rights taken from me – too! A year later Mr. Villiani tells me Sue had gained a hundred pounds due to the drugs and food. Sue was an actress. Two talent scouts from a major studio came to watch her perform in a school play. When I saw a picture of Sharon Tate, I wondered if they made the comparison.
When I read the name of the street we lived on, Bella Vista, it sounded like a mental hospital. Rosemary told her children she had a scholarship to Camarillo, then laughed. A week after Christine was dead, she told me there was a party planned, and…
“Like Virginia Wolf, she put stones in her pocket and walked into the water.”
She would not say more. She was right about the party – that was concealed from me. Here is my post about Camarillo that contains the photo of Norbert Davis, who killed himself. Ludwig Wittgenstein, was very interested in his books. Two of his brothers killed themselves. Here is a photo of Bryan MacLean drawing at University High. We were ‘The School Artists’. He and Christine were in love for several months when the famous ‘Rosamond’ was sixteen. Bryan was invited to dinner at Sharon Tate’s house the night she was murdered. He did not show.
I awoke early yesterday, and wrote my last post. I felt very spaced. When my friend called I told him I was out of it. I had a headache and the back of my neck ached. I discovered I had not had my coffee and was going through withdrawal. I told my friend I may not blog about Sue. This morning, I read about the series Harry and Meghan did with the help of Oprah. ‘The Me You Can’t See’. I made up my mind as I lie in bed last night, to see if I can find, and talk, to Sue Villiani. I got on google, to learn Camarillo was closed in 1997, a fact I knew six years ago, but, it did not register that my chance to speak with my ex-lover since 1968, had come and gone. Bryan had to have met Sue. When we became friends, he took me meet the other School Loner. Ryan O’Neil sat alone during lunch. He knew Bryan was once again trying to find him a friend. This member of the group ‘Love’ learned to swim in Elizabeth Taylor’s swimming pool.
Here is a story about the last patients being moved, and, how getting info, is difficult. Is she still alive? This is the question my story will end with.
When his five-part mental health docuseries “The Me You Can’t See” dropped on Apple TV+ last week there was a 25% rise in viewers on the streaming platform, according to a source close to Apple. It was so successful that a spinoff special was announced in the days that followed — a town hall-style discussion in which Harry and co-producer Oprah Winfrey reconnected with subjects and experts from the original series to further explore emotional well-being.
It’s the first evidence that the prince is worth the hundreds of millions of dollars the major streaming services have invested in Archewell Productions — the unit he set up with wife Meghan. It’s early days but his Apple TV+ hit is a positive sign. Of course, it will have helped to have an A-list supporting cast, with actress Glenn Close and singer Lady Gaga among the show’s participants sharing their own experiences with mental health.
The series also got a lot of pick up from the press around what he said about the royal family and the accusation that “the firm,” with the media, smeared his wife. In the initial five-part series, Harry opened up about using alcohol and drugs to cope with the trauma of his mother’s death and the pressures of being a royal. In the UK, average viewership on Apple over the weekend was up 40%, our source told us.
In 1932, the state of California purchased 1,760 acres of the Lewis Ranch – originally Rancho Guadalasca, a Mexican land grant of 1836 – and established the Camarillo State Mental Hospital, three miles outside of the city of Camarillo. The hospital was in use from 1936 to 1997 and in the 50s and 60s, it was at the forefront of treating illnesses that were previously thought to be incurable, including a drug for people suffering from schizophrenia.
Though initially small in size, having only male patients for the first year of its existence, the hospital quickly grew in size, requiring additional buildings and eventually even housing for the hospital staff so they could be close at hand 24/7. The hospital became a self-contained unit, providing its own food – through patient vocational therapy farming – as well as adding other various buildings to become a virtual town.
In the 1940s, children became patients of the hospital and a whole new area was added to the hospital to keep the children separated from the adults. Adolescents were also separated from the children, in their own building, and eventually a high school was added to the property. Imagine, then, spending your whole life in a place like this, because even in the 50s and 60s, there was a stigma to having any sort of mental imbalance.
My great-uncle’s wife was committed to Camarillo State Hospital in California for something over 30 years, until her death in 1967. She has no descendants. I have become very interested in this woman’s sad story (it begins in an orphanage), and wonder if anyone has had success in getting information from a mental hospital now closed. The California Department of State Hospitals has a contact office for Camarillo, and I have written to them but received no answer.
On the State website, on the page “State Hospitals – Patient Information Requests – FAQ,” readers are referred to the laws regarding release of information. I see that researchers with an approved Human Subjects plan can receive access, I see legal forms for committing a person, and there’s a third section on “Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), 45 CFR 164 Subpart E”. So, I have so far not been able to figure out what the rules are for requesting information.
Has anyone been successful in such a quest? I read a suggestion that a researcher request copies of minutes from the Board of the institution, but I hardly think they’ll send me 30+ years of minutes on the chance that my great-aunt will be mentioned.
Unfortunately, due to state and federal confidentiality laws, information that can be disclosed is strictly limited. In most cases, these confidentiality laws prevail over any request for patient records from an entity, including family member, other than the patient him/herself, even if the patient is deceased.
Remaining Patients Bid Farewell to Hospital
By MACK REEDJUNE 11, 1997 12 AM PTTIMES STAFF WRITERCAMARILLO —
As the last 18 psychiatric patients entered vans Tuesday to be moved out of Camarillo State Hospital, their caretakers wept.
This, finally, was it.
Budget cutbacks and changes in psychiatric policy had brought an end to 61 years of pioneering research and patient care at Camarillo State.
On this last day of treatment, whining wheelchair lifts helped pack up the seven men left in the skilled nursing unit for transfer to other facilities.ADVERTISING
The last 11 boys from the children and adolescents unit clambered into vans for the move to Metropolitan State Hospital in Norwalk.
And the Camarillo State staff continued making their own moves to other hospitals, new careers, early retirement.
By summer’s end, only a skeleton crew of 25 will remain to cut grass, mend pipes, douse fires and preserve the sprawling campus of Spanish-style buildings for the next tenant–perhaps a state university–to take over.
Nita Vera sagged against fellow psychiatric technician Carolyn Ford and cried.
She wondered aloud whether the next slew of hospitals and facilities will treat her patients as carefully.
“Eighteen years,” Vera said. “We’ve worked here 18 years. They told us the hospital was going to close, but we never realized. . . .”
Ford hugged her.
“Even when they said it was closing, we said, ‘No, it will not close,’ ” Ford said. “We don’t understand it, and the clients don’t understand it.”
Said Vera: “It’s a big mistake. They won’t realize until later how big a mistake it is.” Ford added, “I hope the patients get treated with dignity, as they were here.”
The patients themselves seemed unsure what to expect.
“It’s kind of sad,” said one boy, crammed into a van with five fellow patients for transfer to Metropolitan State Hospital. “It’s beautiful scenery out here, and when we go to Metro, it’ll be all industrial.”
Another teen added: “The weeping willows are a nice part of the scenery. It’s very restful to be able to sleep out under the trees.”
How did they know about Metro?
“We’ve seen photos,” the first boy said ominously.
“And we’ve heard horrible descriptions from people,” offered the second.
But Bobbie King, a shift lead nurse for Camarillo State’s children and adolescents unit, said she and several colleagues will also transfer to Metropolitan to continue working with the boys.
“This was an excellent program,” King said wistfully, looking over the campus where she has worked since 1963.
On Nov. 1, 1936, Camarillo State Hospital opened in a clutch of white, tile-roofed buildings nestled on 350 acres of farmland on the Oxnard Plain. Its first 410 psychiatric patients were ferried in by train from hospitals all over the state.
By its 1954 peak, the hospital housed 7,266 psychiatric patients, treating the most violent ones with primitive methods–the best of the day–such as restraints, ice-water baths and electroshock therapy.
But the hospital evolved, driven by its own research and the nationwide patients-rights movements of the 1960s and ‘70s, from a long-term crowded asylum to a short-term, multiuse hospital.
In 1967, Camarillo State began treating developmentally disabled patients too, using occupational therapy in simple jobs that engaged them, paid them and improved their self-esteem.
UCLA researchers at the hospital pioneered the use of Thorazine and other early psychotropic drugs that calmed patients’ symptoms. They perfected newer medications such as Risperidone, which can help patients function clearly without numbing them to the outside world.
And Camarillo State’s teachers and clinicians developed courses that sought to give developmentally disabled and mentally ill patients the skills they need to function outside the state hospital system.
By Tuesday morning, nearly all of it was gone.
Laborers had already muscled all the furniture out to moving vans.
Ruth Grant packed up her computer amid bright pastel drawings done by her developmentally disabled students.
“It saddens me to see that, after 61 years, this place has to close,” said Grant, a seven-year veteran of Camarillo State who hopes to launch a CD-ROM development business at home in Oxnard. “We had a good program going.”
In the courtyard of the skilled-nursing wing sat Richard, 64, chewing a mint.
The last of Camarillo State’s psychiatric patients, Richard watched psychiatric technicians load his fellow patients into vans.
And he waited for a ride, sorting through his thoughts on the final moments of Camarillo State, where he had been treated for mental illness, on and off, since the 1960s.
He remembered visits from presidents and movie stars. He remembered playing on Camarillo State’s golf range and bowling alley, watching movies in its theater.
And he fondly remembered working–fixing sprinklers with the grounds crew, washing dishes in the kitchens, driving a tractor on Camarillo State’s farmland.
“I feel real bad about it,” said Richard, who plans to stay with his guardian in Los Angeles until he can find more permanent housing. “It used to be a good place.”
This morning I talked with Sean at Channel Islands State University, about donating the letters, photographs, and books pertaining to my grandfather, Royal Rosamond. He was extremely interested, and is going to have the President call me back today. I sent her the home movie of my mother made by a member of the Lewis family who once owned the land this hospital is built on. I also said I would donate three of Rosamond’s lithographs. We talked about me teaching a course at this place of higher learning where Rosemary Rosamond told her four children she had a scholarship to. On one of her outings with the Lewis brothers, they stopped in at the newly build asylum, and after talking to the head doctor, he suggest Rosemary check in for treatment. I think they needed a Star Patient, a local who would give the message to Camarillo Pioneers, that being insane, and treated in a spanking new hospital, is like eating a peach cobbler pie. My mother turned down her scholarship – and flew away! She rode like the wind!
Alas I own the Alpha and Omega of my autobiography ‘Capturing Beauty’. I see myself lecturing young people on the importance of discovering our roots, for, who knows what treasures lie there. The Santa Cruz cottages were especially built for students, and look like they are out of Tolkien. There is a Utopian look to them. Here is Pacifica, our Atlantis, rising. Alas, my family will get the respect we deserve!
“All’s well, that ends well!”
President: Royal Rosamond Press
The campus is located about two miles (3 km) south of the city of Camarillo, at the base of Long Grade Canyon. The school is set on rich agricultural land at the edge of the Oxnard Plain and nestled into the base of the Santa Monica Mountains. The flat site is bordered by farms and marked by a lone peak called Round Mountain. The state hospital was built in a remote area so roads were improved to provide for the campus traffic. The university developed a bus transit network to serve the campus with VISTA buses providing access to Gold Coast Transit in Oxnard and the Camarillo train station. Gaining official possession of the land in 1998 and then occupancy in 1999, California State University began classes on the 634-acre (257 ha) existing campus-style facility, primarily one to two-story buildings organized around three primary quads. In 2007, the campus acquired an additional 153 acres (62 ha). Many of the buildings are in the Mission Revival and Spanish Colonial Revival architectural styles, although there are a few “modern” buildings. The campus is split into two primary sections: North Quad and South Quad. In 2012, del Norte and Madera Halls were opened in the North Quad; some of the buildings in the North Quad are still uninhabited and unsafe due to age.
There are two villages that make up student housing. They are both named after two of the Channel Islands: Santa Cruz and Anacapa Islands.
Opened in the Fall of 2007, Santa Cruz village is home to freshmen students and those students that have less than thirty units completed. Most suites are two bedroom, housing six students with three in each bedroom. Most single occupancy rooms are reserved for the Resident Assistants or “RAs,” which are students employed by Housing and Residential Education. Santa Cruz has various amenities including a game room, a fitness room, a dance studio, television rooms, and study rooms. Santa Cruz village at capacity is home to 460 residents. Anacapa Village houses transfer students and sophomore level students. Each dorm has a small kitchen and living area, two bathrooms, and four bedrooms housing six roommates in a two-double, two-single format.
The Scary Dairy is an old dairy farm adjacent to the former Camarillo State Mental Hospital, now California State University, Channel Islands. It was run and maintained by the staff and patients of the hospital as a form of work experience and additional income for the hospital. In the 1960s the dairy was closed and the buildings fell into disarray and have since been heavily vandalized.
The land is now a part of the California State University, Channel Islands. The public is welcome to explore by foot during the day. University police officers patrol the area frequently and are on the lookout for large groups of youth, vandals and firearms of any kind (including paintball guns) and any other suspicious activity. The field adjacent to the dairy has been used for sheriff exercises and training. The trails around the dairy are used by hikers, runners and photographers.
In 1932, the State of California purchased 1,760 acres of the Lewis Ranch and built the Camarillo State Mental Hospital, which operated from 1936 to 1997 and at one point treated as many as 7,000 patients in the mid 1950s.
Located on the parcel was a dairy farm that produced crops and housed livestock that fed the hospital community. The farm was disbanded in the 1960s and has been left in a state of disrepair, falling prey over the decades to vandals and coined “Scary Dairy.”
California State University Channel Islands (CSUCI, CSU Channel Islands, known informally as CI) is a four-year public comprehensive university located outside Camarillo, California in Ventura County. CI opened in 2002, as the 23rd campus in the California State University system, succeeding the Ventura County branch campus of CSU Northridge. The campus had formerly been the Camarillo State Mental Hospital. It has been and continues to be the setting for numerous television, film, and music video productions. CI is located midway between Santa Barbara and Los Angeles in Camarillo, at the intersection of the Oxnard Plain and northern most edge of the Santa Monica Mountain range. The Channel Islands are nearby where the university operates a scientific research station on Santa Rosa Island.
Channel Islands offers 53 types of Bachelor’s degrees, 3 different Master’s degrees, and 6 teaching credentials. It does not confer Doctoral degrees. In the Fall of 2012, the university enrolled the largest amount of students in its 10-year history with 4,920 students including undergraduate and postgraduate. Since its establishment, the university has awarded nearly 7,000 degrees. In Fall of 2013, the university had 349 faculty, of which 93 (or 27 percent) were on the tenure track.[