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SLPC Task Force readies for meeting with Gov. Cuomo’s staff

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The St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center Task Force is gearing up for next week’s meeting with representatives of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s administration where they plan on advocating for the expansion of mental health services in the north country.

The state Office of Mental Health has proposed closing inpatient mental health care services in Ogdensburg, instead sending patients to facilities downstate, as part of an effort to reduce the number of inpatient beds across the state.

Those facilities that remain would be dubbed “Centers of Excellence” and would be supplemented with community-based care.

The meeting with the governor’s staff will be held from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. on Dec. 10 at the state Capitol.

“I think it’s a nice opportunity and we’re going to have to go down there and make the most of it,” Patrick J. Kelly, CEO of the St. Lawrence County Industrial Development Agency and member of the task force, said of the meeting with the governor’s staff.

Speaking at a task force planning session on Tuesday, Mr. Kelly said next week’s meeting is essentially “an elevator pitch slash sales statement” to the governor.

Mr. Kelly said the goal is to “demonstrate to them that not only is [the OMH’s plan] bad for us, it’s bad for New York state. Our full participation in the plan makes it better.”

The task force is advocating that the St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center, the only state inpatient mental health facility north of Syracuse, become a center of excellence.

“We’ve got a good system up here and we need to sell that,” Mayor William D. Nelson said. “I’m feeling really positive about it.”

Mr. Kelly said he hopes the meeting “becomes conversational” so that the task force is able to answer questions the governor’s staff may have.

“The deeper you get into this, the more it looks like having a full service facility up here is better for everyone,” he said, adding that he hopes the task force ends up “working with them, not against them.”

Task Force Chair Charles “Chuck” W. Kelly said he hopes the two-hour meeting will represent the beginning of a larger conversation with the administration.

“We’re taking the high road. We’re hoping there will be another meeting,” he said.

Ogdensburg City Manager and task force member John M. Pinkerton said the attendees to next week’s meeting include himself, Mr. “Chuck” Kelly, Mr. Patrick Kelly, Mr. Nelson, County Legislator Vernon D. “Sam” Burns, D-Ogdensburg, County Legislator Joseph R. Lightfoot, R-Ogdensburg, St. Lawrence County Sheriff Kevin M. Wells, retired St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center employee John Burke, Dr. Theodore H. Klaudt, chief of emergency medicine at Claxton-Hepburn Medical Center, and Chair of the St. Lawrence County Legislature Jonathan S. Putney, D-Waddington.

The final list of attendees is still being finalized.

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