Forest Haven is located in Laurel, Maryland at 39°5’55.59″N 76°47’10.82″W.
First opened in 1925, Forest Haven began as an institution for educating children and adults who were mentally ill, handicapped, or otherwise unable to function. Patients in the facility were taught job and life skills in a farm-like environment. The facility contained nearly 300 acres of land with 22 different buildings, holding at its peak over a thousand patients.
In the 1960s, a combination of funding cuts and the intaking of individuals with non-intellectual disabilities (such as epilepsy) caused the institution to decline. In 1976, many families of the patients filed a lawsuit, which was later joined by the Department of Justice in 1978, resulting in many of the residents to group homes, although Forest Haven continued to operate. Though the lawsuit was filed, a physician with a suspended license continued to practice in the institution (Source).
Before the closing of the facility in 1991, the Justice Department monitored the number of deaths due to aspiration pneumonia. This condition is often caused due to improper ways of feeding patients, such as feeding while laying down opposed to sitting up. There have been accounts of rampant physical, mental, and sexual abuse, and many of those that died at Forest Haven were all buried in a single mass grave. This area was unmarked until several of the patients’ families added a headstone. The last day of operation was October 14, 1991.
Today, Forest Haven is guarded by the United States Park Police, who conduct periodic patrols to look for trespassers. The buildings of Forest Haven are riddled with asbestos, which is linked to lung disease and lung cancer. Large cleaning efforts have been conducted, aimed at removing asbestos and medical records, but a significant amount of other documentation, such as daily logs, disciplinary reports, and patient information – plus hazardous materials such as asbestos – still remain.
A short documentary, The Trouble They’ve Seen: The Forest Haven Story, has been made by Noor Tagouri and posted on November 29, 2015. This documentary tells the many stories and events that took place from several patients that once attended Forest Haven.
Here is a Google Earth file containing all the buildings at Forest Haven: