The St. Lawrence Valley chapter of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill has come out in opposition to a plan by the state Office of Mental Health to close inpatient services at the St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center.
The proposal by OMH would see inpatient services move downstate as the state consolidates inpatient care services and increases its reliance on outpatient and community-based mental health care.
According to a statement by NAMI-St. Lawrence Valley, the organization is opposed to the plan due to the hardships it would create for people and organizations tasked with filling in the mental health care vacuum.
Part of the plan proposed by OMH would see child inpatient care services move to Utica and adult services moved to Syracuse.
With its current location in Ogdensburg, most families are close enough to visit every day, NAMI-St. Lawrence Valley said in a statement. If families have to drive to Utica or Syracuse, few will be able to visit more than once a week, if at all, due to the cost of gas, parking, meals and hotel expenditures. Parents with other children at home have even more considerations to prevent them from visiting their child as often as they would like.
The urban locations of the downstate psychiatric centers are also problematic in the eyes of NAMI-St. Lawrence Valley and the organization said they are concerned that north country residents would have a difficult time adjusting to cities like Utica or Syracuse.
Furthermore, the organization is worried that mental health patients who are discharged from inpatient facilities in those urban centers, if they do not have adequate support networks, may wind up isolated and left to fend for themselves in an unfamiliar environment.
In todays modern health era, cancer centers have been added to every local hospital and patients dont have to drive more than 45 minutes for treatment, NAMI-St. Lawrence County said. Yet, seriously mentally ill patients are being isolated in facilities where family members will have to drive two, three or even four hours to visit, leaving them unable to participate fully in the treatment process. Then, patients may be released to an urban area totally unfamiliar to them, thereby exacerbating their condition and jeopardizing their recovery.
NAMI-St. Lawrence Valley is an organization that works to support people with mental health issues and their families.
We try to do whatever we can to improve the lives of people who have mental illness because it is a difficult life, Secretary Sandra L. Tomalty said.