From ANNIE ESPOSITO
There was a ceremony Monday (9/21) at the far end of the cemetery on Low Gap Road. Under a graveled area that looks just like another part of the parking lot, lie the bodies of 400 mental patients who died at the state hospital in Talmage (where the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas now stands.) Another 1,200 are cremated and buried en mass in an unmarked area between other grave stones.
This has been very painful for former mental patients; and there has been a seven-year campaign to get recognition for these people – forgotten in life and forgotten in death.
Organizers were pleasantly surprised that 75 or more people came – much bigger than previous events. There were several ex-patients who spoke. One recalled being released in the 70′s when the hospitals were shut down. When they asked her where she wanted to go, she had no idea. But the Sacramento Bee caught her eye, so she said, “Sacramento.” She was driven to Sacramento and set down on a street corner with about $150 – that was all.
But many people died in those hospitals and were buried without names. There is now a stone to commemorate their lives collectively. The new marker at the cemetery on Low Gap Road is on the far west side. It will eventually hold a plaque from the State of California acknowledging hundreds of state mental hospital patients buried in that place. The state has not yet released the money for the plaque. But the cemetery donated the stone and it was decorated for Monday’s remembrance. This was played out in other towns throughout the state. The California Memorial Project is a coalition of three non-profit groups, working to find out whatever they can about the nameless people and finally get acknowledgement of their existence.
Susan Era, who is the Director of the Adult and Older Adult System of Care branch of the county HHSA was on hand. and the Board of Supervisors sent a proclamation noting that people were often put in state mental hospitals for reasons that would not be considered legitimate today.