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Psych Center Task Force pledges support for petition aiming to keep inpatient services local

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OGDENSBURG - The Psychiatric Center Task Force is considering how best to utilize an online petition with more than 5,400 signatures in support of keeping inpatient care in Ogdensburg.

The petition, started earlier this year by Gouverneur resident Jamie Dafoe Weber, took off as friends and family shared it and it spread to the broader community of people who want to see quality inpatient services kept local.

The state Office of Mental Health has proposed closing the inpatient facility at the St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center, instead sending patients to Utica or Syracuse.

Ms. Weber’s son, Alex, has spent time at the psychiatric center over the years, and she said having the facility close to home was a critical aspect of Alex’s rehabilitation.

Ms. Weber said family members were able to visit Alex almost daily while he was in care.

If her son was forced to receive care in Utica or Syracuse, Ms. Weber said, “In the winter there’s no way we could have traveled.”

“I wouldn’t have taken him [for care],” Mrs. Weber said, noting the distance. “I think a lot of people would say that if they were honest.”

Psychiatric Center Task Force Member Patrick J. Kelly said Alex “should be commended for having that kind of confidence and courage” to put his story out there to exemplify why inpatient services are needed locally.

“It’s such a powerful testimony for why the services are needed up here,” he said.

Ms. Weber said she wants the petition, hosted on Change.org, to be delivered to law makers and mental health officials at the state level to help make the case for keeping inpatient services in the city.

“To have over 5,000 responses to a parent’s efforts is tremendous,” Mr. Kelly said.

Mr. Kelly said the task force will pay to have the petition printed and delivered at an optimal time, possibly in the spring when lawmakers are working on the state’s budget.

In the meantime task force members are hoping to get as many people signed on as possible.

Anyone looking to sign can go to http://www.change.org/petitions/new-york-state-office-of-mental-health-keep-st-lawrence-psychiatric-center-open-with-full-facilities.

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