New Book Reveals Decades of Asylum History

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Former psychologist Alma Wynelle Deese gives inside look at Kentucky’s First Asylum

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In my book, I give an accurate account of real people and real events that happened at Eastern Kentucky Asylum, which was heavily supported by the early community.

Could the downfall of mental health care in America be caused by the same psychological stigma given to the mentally ill patients? A lack of openness about their history and daily business continues.

A misguided sense of shame, combined with political control and conflicts, has kept decades of asylum history under wraps, until Alma Wynelle Deese discovered boxes full of historical documents at the Eastern State Hospital, what once was Kentucky’s first asylum and the second state-supported asylum to be established in the U.S.

In “Kentucky’s First Asylum” (published by AuthorHouse), Deese explores past and current issues facing American’s mental health system by dissecting the inner workings of the Eastern Kentucky Asylum. Using historical data, Deese presents a fictionalized narrative to explore this institution’s history from 1817 to the 1990s – including a chapter dedicated to 1906, a pivotal year for Eastern Kentucky Asylum. That year, four employees were charged in the murder of a patient, along with the politics of the time.

“In my book, I give an accurate account of real people and real events that happened at Eastern Kentucky Asylum, which was heavily supported by the early community,” Deese says. “Now, our local mental health systems are controlled by unnecessary confidentiality to hide all activities. While confidentiality is important for patient names, other actions that conduct business and effect employees should be open to public scrutiny. In the past, politicians controlled the money and employees, today, confidentiality, keeps the public from knowing. Valid histories of any such processes are needed and I’ve accomplished this with documented sources.”

“Kentucky’s First Asylum” provides a historical understanding of one early asylum that eventually became a state hospital and serves to give broader context for the understanding of the current mental health system. It provides a platform to better comprehend the problems and process of American psychiatric care.

“Kentucky’s First Asylum: A Saga of the People and Practices”
By: Alma Wynelle Deese
ISBN: 978-1-4620-7303-0
Paperback: $26.95
Available at

About the author
Alma Wynelle Deese graduated from Asbury College in Wilmore, Kentucky, and the University of Mississippi Graduate School. She worked as a psychologist at several institutions, including Eastern State Hospital for 34 years. Deese is the author of several other books. Retired, she now lives in St. Petersburg, Florida, after being a resident of Kentucky.

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EDITORS: For review copies or interview requests, contact:
Jennifer Regnier, Publicist
317-602-7137 | jregnier(at)ohlsengroup(dot)com
(When requesting a review copy, please provide a street address.)

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