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Fight to keep state psychiatric center open

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The state Office of Mental Health has reported a plan to change inpatient services, closing state hospitals and creating Regional Centers of Excellence. OMH has identified some of the characteristics they would like to have in their Regional Centers of Excellence, and it suggests that the St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center is at risk for closure. OMH has indicated that they want their Regional Centers of Excellence to be affiliated with research hospitals and have academic affiliations. Although St. Lawrence County has hospitals and colleges/universities, there are no medical schools, residency programs or ongoing research programs at SLPC. This indicates that there has never been a more critical time to fight for our hospital.

Some of the reasons people should fight for our hospital are:

1. SLPC serves the largest geographical area in the state. So if SLPC were to close, it will be difficult for families to stay involved in their loved one’s treatment.

2. If SLPC closes, our local economy will be drastically affected. People would be forced to seek employment elsewhere, which means less people going to local businesses, hospitals and local schools, which could mean layoffs in other businesses.

3. OMH is promoting more day programs to keep people in the community. Yet if SLPC closes, the Ogdensburg Collaborative Day Treatment Program (Special Education Program) would need to find another location to serve their students. The program is run by BOCES but takes place at SLPC.

4. Local students intern at SLPC, and these opportunities will disappear if the SLPC closes.

5. OMH states that they are going to increase community services, as they reduce inpatient services. However, SLPC already treats close to 2,000 outpatient clients. State-run outpatient clinics would not remain state owned, if the local state hospital closes. Other counties have had to transition from county-run outpatient clinics to privately run outpatient clinics. Clinics in those counties have long waiting list for services. Will our county experience the same?

There will be one chance to make your voice heard.

To make your concerns heard attend the listening tour. This event will be held at the Psychiatric Center’s Unity Center in Ogdensburg from 10 a.m. to noon May 15. To register go to: htp://www.omh.ny.gov/omhweb/excellence/listening_tour.html.

Alyson Bixby

Ogdensburg

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