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Senate introduces bill postponing psych center closures until 2015


A bill has been introduced in the state Senate to delay the closure of inpatient psychiatric facilities across the state until the spring of 2015.

A sponsor for a companion bill in the Assembly has not come forward yet, according to a spokesperson from the office of state Sen. Patricia A. Ritchie, R-Heuvelton, though attempts are being made to find one. Mrs. Ritchie is a co-sponsor of the bill with Deputy Senate Leader Thomas W. Libous, R-Binghamton.

The one-house bill delays implementation of plans by the state Office of Mental Health to consolidate inpatient psychiatric services. Under the plan, adult inpatient beds will be moved from the St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center, Ogdensburg, in state fiscal year 2014-2015 to Hutchings Psychiatric Center in Syracuse. Children’s inpatient beds currently at St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center will move to Mohawk Valley Psychiatric Center, Utica, in state fiscal year 2015-2016.

According to the bill, “The office of mental health is authorized, on and after April 1, 2015, to close, consolidate, reduce, transfer or otherwise redesign services of hospitals, other facilities, and programs operated by the office of mental health.”

The bill cites the loss of inpatient services for people dealing with severe mental illnesses and the lack of a detailed plan for community support services to fill the gap as the main reasons for the moratorium.

A news release from Mrs. Ritchie’s office said the bill is designed to give state leaders more time to ensure New Yorkers receive quality mental health care in the community as inpatient facilities are consolidated from 24 centers currently to 15 in the future.

“The changes envisioned by the state are too drastic, and they come too quickly for communities and the mental health care system to adjust,” Mrs. Ritchie said in the release.

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