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Fri., Oct. 9
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Psychiatric services


A plan proposed by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to save money on mental health services would shift treatment of the mentally ill from inpatient services to less costly outpatient regional centers of excellence.

Little information is available about them, but one possible center would serve a sprawling geographic region stretching from the state’s northern border to Pennsylvania. It would put all of Northern New York in a territory including Binghamton in the south, Cayuga County in the west and Hamilton and Fulton counties on the east.

Specifics are lacking on what facilities might be closed, but state lawmakers are fearful that the St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center in Ogdensburg could be one of four that might close. If that happens, the nearest centers would be in Utica and Syracuse.

It would create hardship on mental health patients at the farthest reaches of the new district and make treatment less accessible to Northern New Yorkers facing the added cost and strain of traveling greater distances to a more centrally located treatment facility, especially in the winter.

Beyond maintaining quality patient services, the economic impact of closing the Ogdensburg facility with the loss of 500 jobs cannot be overlooked.

The state also has to be more forthcoming about how many centers of excellence might be created, the extent of cuts and any reduction in services to patients.

A “listening tour” is scheduled to get public input on the plan, but the Office of Mental Health does not have any hearings planned north of the Thruway. The nearest one is in Syracuse. Time and travel constraints on clients, families and public officials could limit north country attendance and opportunity to be heard.

The Office of Mental Health needs to reconsider its slate of hearings and hold a session in Ogdensburg, where supporters of the north country facility can make their case for maintaining the center.

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