Almost every area of the country provided institutional care for its insane members. Any state government which created an asylum also tried to provide oversight in some way–concerning both patients’ admissions and the facility’s administration. Many counties had insanity commissions or boards whose members judged the mental status of people brought before it.
The institution at Yankton was South Dakota’s only state-run asylum. Any resident was eligible for care, and each county had a three-member board of Commissioners of Insanity. The county judge was its chairman, and the other two members were a physician and an attorney. Requests for admission went before the Commission, who were supposed to investigate the claim. A person could resist commitment; the commission would then appoint a physician to examine the person. That physician’s report resulted in freedom or commitment.
In its early days, the asylum was governed by a board which among other duties: oversaw contracts, inspected sewer lines, helped make decisions about how to slaughter the meat used at the asylum, and reported on improvements to the grounds and new systems of administration.