Pritzker renames Springfield mental health center after women’s rights advocate

The McFarland Mental Health Center in Springfield will now be known as the Elizabeth Parsons Ware Packard Mental Health Center, Gov. JB Pritzker announced Wednesday.

Staff at the facility sought to rename it after Packard, a 19th century advocate for the rights of women and psychiatric patients who was institutionalized against her will. After her release, she pushed for passage of a state law that gave all individuals accused of insanity the right to a public hearing.

“Here in Illinois, we are committed to righting the wrongs of the past wherever we can,” Pritzker said in a statement. “Renaming this Center in honor of Elizabeth Packard … is an important step in the right direction.”

The center was named after Andrew McFarland, who served as superintendent of the Illinois State Asylum for the Insane, opposed independent state inspections of mental health facilities and pushed back against Packard’s efforts, according to Pritzker’s office.

Staff and community members questioned keeping McFarland’s name on the facility after a 2021 book, The Woman They Could Not Silence, chronicled his role in Packard’s confinement. Author Kate Moore called it fitting that Packard’s name “replaces that of her tormentor and doctor.”

“She always warned him she was not mad, simply ahead of her time, and today, at long last, her truth is heard,” Moore said.

The facility currently staffs 250 employees and supports over 120 patients with serious mental illness.