Last week, when Dr. Dean Brooks, the former longtime head of the Oregon State Hospital died at 96, Gov. John Kitzhaber issued the following statement:
“Dr. Brooks left a legacy of hope and recovery for the patients of Oregon State Hospital and their families. During his tenure, he worked tirelessly to help people across the state understand the challenges facing those who live with mental illness. He was an agent of change, committed to helping others make their lives better, and he will be greatly missed.”
For newcomers to Oregon or those not versed in the history of evolution of mental health care in this state, Brooks' might not have been a familiar name.
But a subsequent lengthy obituary in the New York Times explained why Kitzhaber would comment on the passing of an official gone from public life for decades.
Part of the reason was Brooks' willingness to cooperate in one of the best known movies ever shot in Oregon, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. That film, shot in 1975 and based on the 1962 novel by Oregonian Ken Kesey, made a character of the the hulking form of the state hospital.
The Times explains:
The superintendent of Oregon State Hospital in Salem from 1955 to 1981, Dr. Brooks was known in his field as an innovator. His approach, unusual for its day, included letting patients wear their own clothes rather than hospital uniforms and taking them on therapeutic trips into the wilderness," the Times wrote.
Dr. Brooks became known to a wide public in the mid-1970s, after he agreed to let the director Milos Forman film “Cuckoo’s Nest” on location at the hospital, a Victorian behemoth that opened in 1883.