Begin Main Content Area

​Norristown State Hospital

On behalf of the staff and the individuals served, welcome to Norristown State Hospital. An invitation is extended to you to visit Norristown State Hospital and experience first hand the facility's approach to service.

Norristown State Hospital is a long-term psychiatric facility that is Medicare- and Medicaid-approved. It provides treatment for consumers with severe and persistent mental illness. Norristown State Hospital is located outside of the city of Philadelphia, in Norristown, Pennsylvania. It stretches for 225 rolling, tree-lined acres, and is home to many different mental health service providers. It is known for being the first institution in the country that recognized female physicians and the first to house a pathology department.

Norristown State Hospital serves the five counties of the Southeast Region of Pennsylvania: Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery and Philadelphia. The facility has 128 beds for individuals in general psychiatry (civil section) and 136 beds for individuals in The Regional Psychiatric Forensic Unit.

Treatment at Norristown State Hospital is directed by psychiatric leadership through the treatment team, a partnership with the individual receiving care and treatment, their family members, members of the Consumer and Family Advocacy Community, representatives from the county offices of mental health, and members of the hospital's clinical, administrative, and support teams. This partnership of service enables and facilitates psychiatric rehabilitation and recovery. Individualized programs are tailored toward assisting the individual in returning to the community.

Norristown State Hospital is committed to service in support of recovery. 

Admission Process

Individuals admitted to the Civil Section of Norristown State Hospital must come directly from a community hospital inpatient unit. Admission referrals from the general public are not accepted. If the treating physician at the community hospital determines that the individual requires longer-term psychiatric treatment, a referral is initiated by the appropriate county program office.

Referrals are accepted from the following counties: Bucks County, Chester County, Delaware County, Montgomery County, and Philadelphia County.

    • Bucks County MH/DP Department: (215) 444-2800
    • Chester County Department of MH/IDD: (610) 334-6265
    • Delaware County Department of Human Services: (610) 275-2232
    • Montgomery County BH/DD (610) 278-3642
    • Philadelphia County DBHIDS (215) 546-0300

Consumer's Rights

Norristown State Hospital is dedicated to assuring that the rights of all consumers are protected. The Bill of Rights in the PA Code, Title 55 details the protected rights of all consumers receiving mental health services. Copies of these rights are given to consumers through the Norristown State Hospital Consumer Handbook and posted in each consumer unit and in programming areas. The Handbook is mailed to each consumer's family and is made available for other individuals who are interested.

Special Programs:

In line with the facility's mission, vision, and values, Norristown State Hospital recognizes that specialized treatment programs designed to treat specific problems are more therapeutically effective in achieving better outcomes, in shortening the length of inpatient stay, and in enhancing the quality of the lives of the men and women who are served and supported. The following special programs are currently operational:

    • Co-Occurring Disorders Services (Civil/ Forensic) — Serves both men and women who are dual diagnosed by identifying, educating and treating psychiatric consumers who have the additional presence of a drug or alcohol addiction/history by DSM IV diagnosis. A Certified Addictions Counselor provides and/or arranges for appropriate services for their individual needs.
    • Personal Skills Program (Civil) — A program that offers a very structured behavioral program designed to provide training in basic activities of daily living and basic social skills such as personal boundaries, impulse control, and anger management. The staff works to reinforce skills necessary for community re-entry.
    • The Regional Forensic Psychiatric Center (RFPC) provides active psychiatric treatment and/or psychiatric evaluation in a medium-security facility to persons that are involved with the county-based judicial/correction systems. A person referred for admission to the RFPC must be under criminal detention by this system. For those persons committed for psychiatric treatment, the anticipated outcome is that with the stabilization of their symptoms, they will return to the judicial system. For those individuals referred for court-ordered evaluations, the outcome is their return to the judicial system with a comprehensive psychiatric evaluation forwarded to the court of jurisdiction.

Special Services

There are many different services that are provided for consumers of Norristown State Hospital, their family members and the community. The following services are currently being offered:

    • Services are provided at Norristown State Hospital for persons with mental illness with hearing impairments or for whom English is not the spoken language, and for persons with physical disabilities.
    • Screening for speech and hearing problems is routinely completed for all newly admitted individuals. More comprehensive assessment and follow-up treatment for identified speech or hearing problems are provided by contracted service providers on a referral basis. As needed, hearing aids are obtained and serviced. Dysphasia evaluation, treatment, and consultation are available through referral to the contracted speech therapist. All patients who experience incidents of choking on food are automatically referred.
    • There is a Families Group for any family member interested. The group meets periodically with the Chief Executive Officer and Executive Council. This group has direct, regularly scheduled access to the Chief Executive Officer regarding program development and overall hospital management.
    • Norristown State Hospital has an active Human Rights Committee composed of hospital staff, advocates, consumers, and interested individuals from the community. This group reviews key risk management data, hospital policy, and advises the hospital administration on areas of concern. This group assisted in the development of a Patient Advisory Council (PAC) and continues to provide the group with assistance.
    • The Patient Advisory Council is a group of elected consumers who review policy and bring consumer input to the Administration on various issues such as violence prevention, safety issues, dietary services, treatment, and discharge planning issues, and other issues of policy and consumer satisfaction. The Council sponsors special meetings with counties to provide patients with the opportunity to interact directly and helps to plan annual consumer conferences.
    • Two advocates are provided by the National Alliance for Mental Ill (NAMI) and the Mental Health Association of Southeastern PA to serve the consumers of Norristown State Hospital. They are available to all individuals in the hospital and participate in the placement transition process. The Advocates work to ensure consumers' rights are protected as guaranteed under the Constitution and federal, state, and local laws.
    • Norristown State Hospital continues to operate a very active volunteer program, which provides supplemental services and robust community contact for patients. If you would like to volunteer, please contact the Volunteer Department at 610- 313-1228.
    • Noyes Memorial Library at Norristown State Hospital is located in Building 53. It consists of books, magazines and audiovisual material that support the programs of the Hospital. The library serves the informational, educational and recreational needs of the patients and their families, staff, volunteers as well as members of the community.
    • Norristown State Hospital also has on-campus a Drop-In Center, located in Building 6, operated by the Mental Health Association of Southeastern Pennsylvania which is available to all community mental health consumers. This is consumer-driven and is open five days a week, including weekends and evenings. 

The Regional Forensic Unit at Norristown State Hospital

The Regional Forensic Unit at Norristown State Hospital provides treatment and evaluation services to men and women from three distinct areas:

    1. Southeast Region-consisting of Philadelphia, Bucks, Montgomery, Delaware and Chester Counties,
    2. Northeast Region-consisting of Lebanon, Lancaster, Berks, Lehigh, Schuylkill, Northampton, Carbon, Monroe, Pike, Lackawanna, Susquehanna, Wayne, and Luzerne Counties and
    3. State Correctional Institution for Women at Muncy.

Contact Information

Forensic Unit Pre-Admissions Coordination, Regional Forensic Psychiatric Center at Norristown State Hospital, 1001 Sterigere Street, Norristown, PA. 19401, telephone 610-313-5655, fax 610-313-5990.

Visiting Guidelines 

The Regional Forensic Psychiatric Center at Norristown State Hospital encourages family contact and visitation. Persons over age 16 may visit during convenient afternoon, evening and weekend time periods. Anyone under age 18 must be accompanied by an adult at all times. Family and friends are notified in writing of the visiting times and of the visiting procedure by the patient's assigned social worker. The Regional Forensic Unit "Patient and Family Handbook" is given to all patients upon admission and is mailed to persons the patient designates.

History of Norristown State Hospital

In May 1876, under Public Law 121, the Pennsylvania Legislature called for the establishment of a state mental hospital to serve the Southeastern District of Pennsylvania. It was designed in 1878-80 by Wilson Brothers & Company. It was the first institution in the country that recognized female physicians and the first to house a Pathology department.

Norristown State Hospital received its first patient, a woman, on July 12, 1880. Two more women arrived on July 13th followed by the first two men on July 17th. Very soon thereafter groups of individuals were admitted from other state hospitals and county almshouses. By September 30, 1880, there were 295 men and 251 women receiving in-patient care and treatment.

Norristown State Hospital was the first of the Pennsylvania state hospitals to construct its buildings in a style following the "cottage" model, developed in Gheel, Belgium, rather than the large-scale single structure Kirkbride Model that was composed of multiple "wings" attached to it. The Norristown State Hospital buildings were separate structures above ground but were all inter-connected by a system of tunnels. The "cottage" model allowed for the separation of patients into areas based somewhat on their level of functioning.

The 1920s and 1930s specialized departments such as Social Work, Occupational Therapy, and Psychology were developed. Some years later, Volunteer Resources, Recreation, and Vocational Services were formally established.

The renowned Arthur P. Noyes became Superintendent in 1936 and remained in that position until 1959. Dr. Noyes started the Psychiatric Residency Program which was to be in operation for almost fifty years. He opened the hospital gates and introduced many innovations in treatment and thinking. His book, Modern Clinical Psychiatry, is considered a classic in the field of Psychiatry.

During the 1930's and 1940's electroshock therapy, insulin coma therapy, and lobotomies became methods of treatment. The usage of psychotropic (anti-psychotic) medications began in the early 1950s. Medications were able to help control and lessen the severity of many of the symptoms and behaviors associated with mental illness. At this time there were over 4,000 patients.

Specialized treatment units for substance abuse, social rehabilitation, geriatrics, adolescents, forensics, among others, were developed during the latter 1950s and into the 1960s. There was an emphasis on social and vocational rehabilitation to prepare persons for community re-entry. The late 1960s and early 1970s stressed an emphasis on the placement of many patients into the community. The census began to drop significantly. The number of inpatients dropped from about 3200 in February 1968 to slightly over 1700 in May 1973.

In more recent years, Norristown State Hospital has assimilated multiple patients and staff from the closures of other state hospitals so now it is the only remaining state hospital in Southeastern Pennsylvania.

Directions to Norristown State Hospital

From PA Turnpike East:

Take Exit #326 (Valley Forge/King of Prussia) to Route 202 North towards Norristown. You will be passing the King of Prussia Shopping Complex on the left. Follow 202 North for approximately three miles until Route 202 North turns right at the traffic light, but DO NOT TURN! Continue straight ahead and drive on the concrete bridge to the next traffic light which is Main Street (Norristown – There's a McDonald's on the right-hand side). Turn left onto Main Street (crossing the railroad tracks) and travel to the second traffic signal. Turn right onto Stanbridge Street. Travel seven blocks to Sterigere Street. The Hospital's main entrance (Gate #1) is at the corner of Stanbridge and Sterigere Streets. There are directional signs to all buildings inside Gate #1.

From PA Turnpike West: 
Take Exit #333 (Norristown/Germantown Pike West). Take a slight left to take the ramp towards Norristown, take Plymouth Road ramp, turn left onto Plymouth Road, turn right onto Germantown Pike West. You will pass the Plymouth Meeting Mall on the right. Later you will pass the intersection of Route 202 and Germantown Pike. Proceed another two miles to North Whitehall Road (traffic signal with a Wawa on the right-hand corner). The traffic signal before North Whitehall Road is North Wales Road. Make a left onto North Whitehall Road and continue to Sterigere Street (the first traffic signal). Turn left onto Sterigere Street and proceed straight, hospital is on the left. Enter Gate #4 or Gate #1. Gates #2 and #3 are closed.

From Germantown Pike West:
Proceed as outlined under directions from Turnpike Exit #333.

From Germantown Pike East:
Proceeding east on Germantown Pike, make a right turn onto Whitehall Road, then proceed as outlined under directions from Turnpike East #333.

From Route 202 North:
Proceed as outlined under directions from Turnpike Exit #326.

From Route 202 South:
Proceed to Germantown Pike, turning right onto Germantown Pike. Proceed as outlined under directions from Turnpike Exit #333 for Germantown Pike West.