Newsroom > DHHS News Release

October 13, 2010

Marla Augustine, Communications and Legislative Services, (402) 471-4047 or

Norfolk Regional Center Celebrates 125th Anniversary

Lincoln—The Norfolk Regional Center celebrates its 125th anniversary this month.

In 1885, with an appropriation from the Nebraska Legislature, the NRC was established to meet a need for a place to go for those who were suffering from mental illness.

“Back then, those who were mentally ill were shunned by society and put in insane asylums,” said Scot Adams, director of the Behavioral Health Division in the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, the department that administers the NRC. “Today, we treat people more humanely. We’ve made substantial progress toward de-institutionalization and serving them with community-based services.”

By 1888, the hospital’s patient population was 300. After 1901, when a fire destroyed the main building, more ward buildings and an administrative building were built. By 1909, NRC’s capacity was 400 patients. In 1920, the name was changed from the Norfolk Insane Asylum to Norfolk State Hospital.

With the addition of new ward buildings, by 1939 the hospital had a capacity for 1050 patients jumping to 1,366 by 1955—its highest ever.

During the 1960s, the Administration-Admissions Building was built, containing the administrative offices, hospital facilities and adjunctive therapy departments, as well as the admission, medical-surgical and intensive treatment wards. By 1965, the patient census had dropped to 879 and continued declining, dropping to 159 patients in 1975 with the de-institutionalization of mentally ill patients. By 2005, the census was 179.

In July 2006, the Nebraska Legislature passed LB 1199, which created the Sex Offender Commitment Act. The NRC became the first of three phases of treatment in the Nebraska Sex Offender Treatment Program. Now licensed for 150 beds, the center receives patients who are committed under either the Sex Offender Act or the Mental Health Commitment Act.

NRC has evolved over the years from a center that serves persons with mental illness and intellectual disabilities to one that serves a smaller population of sex offenders. There are no psychiatric beds left there.

NRC currently employs 208.5 full-time equivalent employees in jobs that include psychiatric technicians, mental health security specialists, nurses, and other positions.

“NRC contributes to its community and society in significant ways,” Adams said. “It adds dollars to the local economy in terms of employees’ salaries. And it serves a necessary purpose—treating sex offenders so that they can be rehabilitated and lead successful lives.”