California Memorial Project (CMP)

Disability Rights California’s Peer Self-Advocacy (PSA) Program advocates for and oversees the California Memorial Project (CMP). The CMP’s mission is to honor and restore dignity to individuals with mental health and developmental disabilities who lived and died in California state institutions.

DRC Program

California Memorial Project: Remembering Those Who Were Forgotten

Disability Rights California’s Peer Self-Advocacy (PSA) Program advocates for and oversees the California Memorial Project (CMP). The CMP’s mission is to honor and restore dignity to individuals with mental health and developmental disabilities who lived and died in California state institutions.

We help fight the mental health stigma and discrimination
we experience as peers by remembering those
who came before us.

CMP Annual Remembrance Ceremonies

We celebrate the 3rd Monday of each September as California Memorial Project (CMP) Remembrance Day. On this day, the CMP holds remembrance ceremonies throughout California at state institutions and local cemetery gravesites where these individuals were buried. Leading a statewide moment of silence, we honor and celebrate the lives of all our peers.

If anyone wants to share their personal story of having lived in a California institution, email : californiamemorialproject@gmail.com

2020 Online Remembrance Ceremony  

This past year, the 18th Annual California Remembrance Day ceremony was held on Monday, September 21, 2020. We had a virtual ceremony via a Zoom webinar this year instead of in-person ceremonies to take precautions during this time of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Since we presented the ceremony virtually, more people from throughout the state were able to attend since they didn’t have to travel to a physical location. Our CMP Remembrance Ceremony has now become a well-known event throughout California and across the nation! 

View the Event Here

Monday September 21, 2020: We held a moment of silence at 1:55 pm will honor and restore dignity to people with mental health and developmental disabilities who lived and died in state institutions.

Gone, But no Longer Forgotten:
The California Memorial Project (Video)

CMP History

From the 1880’s to the 1960’s, over 45,000 people with mental health and developmental disabilities lived and died at California state institutions.

Various stone markers at hospital burial sites.
Caption: (Left Photo) A numbered marker. (Right Photo) Numbered stone markers at Patton State Hospital.

Most were buried anonymously in unmarked or mass graves, identified only by numbers that disappeared long ago. They died without the recognition and acknowledgment they deserved as human beings, in life or in death.

Peer Advocacy Efforts

Peer advocates worked together for laws to bring back dignity to our peers. They fought the mistreatment and neglect of our peers.

In 2002, Senate Bill 1448 (Chesbro) addressed the terrible conditions of the state institution gravesites. This law provided valuable support for the disability community.

In 2002, three peer-led organizations - Disability Rights California’s Peer Self-Advocacy Program, People First® of California and The California Network of Mental Health Clients started the California Memorial Project.

CMP Accomplishments

In 2002, we held our first California Annual Remembrance Day Ceremony. With Senator Chesbro’s support, the State Assembly declared the 3rd Monday of each September as California Memorial Project Remembrance Day.

We collected 21 oral histories from different people who have lived in state institutions to hear about their experiences from their own point of view.  By preserving their stories, we are reclaiming our past. We are also conducting research about the disability rights movement to document the history of our peers’ advocacy efforts that now benefit us today.

Establishing Monuments

In addition, we place memorial monuments and hold dedication ceremonies at burial sites at California state hospitals and developmental centers to honor those who were lost.

Some monuments state: "Let no person ever again be removed from the community by reason of disability... Let us honor their memory by reclaiming and healing our past... Let no person ever be laid to rest without recognition."

Various memorials at Mental Health sites

Caption: These two separate monuments rest at the Stockton Facility.

Various memorials at Mental Health sites

Caption: (Left Photo) Monument on cemetery grounds of Patton State Hospital. (Middle Photo) Monument at Russian River Cemetery in Ukiah. (Right Photo) Monument at former grounds of Camarillo State Hospital (closed in 2002) which is now the campus of the California State University - Channel Islands.

For more information about CMP,
send an email to: californiamemorialproject@gmail.com

Find out more about our
Peer Self-Advocacy (PSA) Program.