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Sheriffs, county lawmakers from six counties plan meeting to discuss psych center future

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Sheriffs and county law makers from St. Lawrence, Jefferson, Franklin, Essex, Lewis and Clinton Counties are planning to meet in Ogdensburg to coordinate their efforts to keep inpatient services at the St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center. The state Office of Mental Health has proposed sending inpatient services downstate as part of a state-wide shift to more community-based mental health services.

The meeting between sheriffs and law makers will take place on Nov. 21 said St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center Task Force Chair Charles “Chuck” W. Kelly.

Mr. Kelly said they are hoping to be able to tour the psychiatric center, 1 Chimney Point Dr., at 3:30 p.m. before meeting at the Dobisky Center at 5 p.m.

The final list of who is attending has not been confirmed, Mr. Kelly said, but representatives of every county that is served by the psychiatric center have been invited.

Mr. Kelly said the meeting will discuss the increased burden the plan by OMH would place on counties, among other issues. The cost of transporting people on a regular basis to psychiatric centers downstate will be a foremost concern, Mr. Kelly said, as some fear it will become an unfunded mandate that counties will be forced to swallow.

“We don’t know of any good changes that are being made,” Mr. Kelly said of the plan by OMH.

The meeting will also discuss the number of people who will likely end up in county jails as a result of inpatient care services being shuttered in the north country.

“All the counties appear to be suffering the same problem of having mental hygiene patients taking up prison space,” Mr. Kelly said. “Mental hygiene patients should be treated as mental hygiene patients and not as prisoners.”

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