Western State Hospital hosts Fall Festival for patients, staff

Streamers, laughter, and the smell of popcorn filled the gymnasium at the 2022 Fall Festival, held Oct. 26 at Western State Hospital’s Gage Center of Forensic Excellence. Staff and patients enjoyed a safe, fun, and therapeutic carnival-themed event.

This year’s festival was especially significant to patients and staff because it was the first of its kind in more than two years due to COVID-19 restrictions. With more than 150 Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity patients and staff in attendance, the festival featured an assortment of attractions such as refreshments, games, prizes, music, and a variety of staff-led activities.

“I think this event is very therapeutic for our residents,” said Chris Tribble, institution counselor. “Due to Covid, they have been confined to their wards for a very extensive period. Allowing them to come out and mingle a little, gives them the opportunity to engage in activities that they haven’t been able to in their wards.”

Some of the activities patients attending the event could participate in included singing karaoke, playing bingo, or creating a personal tie-dye shirt. They could also take their pick of treats like hot dogs, popcorn, cotton candy and snow cones.

“We wanted to create an event where patients could come out and have a normal day like they would if they were in the community — enjoy themselves, take a break from treatment, and intermingle with other people,” said Jeremy Morehouse, therapies supervisor. “For patients it’s very important to get out interact and socialize.”

Dressed for the occasion in a variety of costumes, staff also helped patients look festive with booths for face painting, temporary tattoos, and nail painting. True to a carnival-like atmosphere, patients also took their pick of games such as cornhole, a ball toss, football toss, and mini bowling where they could win tickets to later exchange for prizes. Festival prizes ranged from self-care items to wireless headphones.

“For staff, this is a break from the day-to-day,” Morehouse said. “This is fun and not work. They get to interact with patients on a fun level.”

Although a lighthearted and festive event, planning for the festival began months prior, required layers of security, and a strict schedule to ensure everyone’s safety. Staff volunteers committed hours to planning the event to ensure its success. A host of volunteers also decorated the gymnasium with fall decorations, banners, and holiday-themed booths. And, at the end of the carnival, the volunteers cleaned up the mess left behind.

WSH staff plan to do another patient festival in Spring 2023.

(By Jacob Jimenez)

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