About Timberlawn Behavioral Health System
Located within a grassy oasis, Timberlawn Behavioral Health System was founded in 1917 by Dr. James Terrill. Dr. Terrill recognized that mentally ill patients needed residential care in an environment where they felt safe and the individual attention to where they could thrive. At that time, there was a national reform movement to revolutionize care of the mentally ill. Patients were being moved out of the city’s general hospitals and jails, and into rural residential centers.
Dr. Terrill found a stately white farmhouse in the fields on the outskirts of Dallas, then about a half-day’s buggy ride, and now just about five-minute drive from downtown Dallas. He called the new facility Timberlawn because of the grassy forest, which surrounded the house. Timberlawn was the first residential psychiatric hospital west of the Mississippi River. As Dr. Terrill’s reputation grew, patients came from all around the region to seek his care. Timberlawn was a two-story house that provided care for as many as fifteen patients living in the upper story of the house, while Dr. Terrill and his family lived downstairs.
As Dallas prospered and expanded, so did Timberlawn. By the end of World War II, Timberlawn had gained national recognition for working with traumatized veterans. The pharmaceutical revolution in medicine brought new hope for the mentally ill. For the first time, effective treatment was possible for some of the most disabling psychiatric illnesses. Under the leadership of Dr. Perry Talkington, former chief psychiatrist of Patton’s Third Army, Timberlawn became a national referral center.
By the 1980s, Timberlawn Behavioral Health System had become an established national center for treatment, research and medical education. The psychiatric residency program, previously offered in conjunction with the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, trained many psychiatrists in Texas. Timberlawn developed a reputation for innovation in the development of family therapy and special programs, and this tradition continues today.
Today at the Timberlawn Behavioral Health System’s campus, the original farmhouse and the surrounding acreage still remain with its lush grass and verdant woods and the half-day’s buggy ride is just a five-minute drive from downtown Dallas.