GOUVERNEUR - When she found out that the state Office of Mental Health wants to close child inpatient services at the St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center Jamie Dafoe Weber launched into action and began circulating an online petition to keep the services local.
Its extremely personal to us, Mrs. Weber said.
The petition on change.org has already garnered more than 5,200 signatures.
The mother of a son who has dealt with mental health issues since he was seven years old, Mrs. Weber said having inpatient services local was critical to ensuring her son had the level of care he needed.
It was very scary and very overwhelming, she said, recalling the first time she had to take her son to the psychiatric center to help treat his depression. Over the course of the years hes received inpatient services half a dozen times.
Mrs. Weber said having the psychiatric center close to home made the process easier on the family as at least one family member was able to visit her son every day he was receiving care.
The proposal by OMH will see child inpatient care services moved to Utica, a two hour drive south from Gouverneur, and Mrs. Weber said that will put a lot of stress on families and individuals who are already hurting.
I know personally sitting in an emergency room - if I knew he was going to Utica I dont think we would seek the same care, she said.
Having her son in Utica would have prevented daily visits, she said, and would have made him feel as if the family was abandoning him.
People shouldnt be put in that position, Mrs. Weber said. Our area has a high unemployment rate already. People dont have the resources that they might have in a larger area [to travel].
The petition has caught fire with hundreds of people signing it every week.
I just felt compelled to do something because weve used the services of the facility many times over the years, Mrs. Weber said.
And although the petition hasnt been formally delivered to OMH yet, Mrs. Weber is confident they are aware of it because the petition is set up to email their office every time someone signs it.
Unless theyve blocked the account Mrs. Weber said OMH is getting literally thousands of emails supporting the psychiatric center.
The petition has been online for several months but until this week Mrs. Weber was not working with the Psychiatric Center Task Force that has been fighting the proposal by OMH.
When she started the petition Mrs. Weber said she wasnt even aware of the task force. But now she said she plans on attending planning meetings and hopes the task force will be able to help ensure her petition is effective and gets to the right people.
Eventually, she said, the petition will be printed out and sent to key decision makers.
Ogdensburg City Manager and Task Force Member John M. Pinkerton said the petition is an invaluable tool in the battle to save the psychiatric center.
People from everywhere are expressing their concern about the closure of this psych center, he said.
In addition to signing the petition, people have also been leaving hundreds of descriptions of why they support the psychiatric center.
Mrs. Weber said, There are an awful lot of people who are touched by mental illness.
Anyone who wants to sign the petition, titled New York State Office of Mental Health: Keep St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center Open with Full Facilities, can go online to change.org and search for it.
You can also enter the following address into your web browser: http://www.change.org/petitions/new-york-state-office-of-mental-health-keep-st-lawrence-psychiatric-center-open-with-full-facilities