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Legislature holds hearing on future of St. LawrencePsychiatric Center today

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Close to 40 people are expected to speak out against the possible loss of 65 inpatient beds at the St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center at a joint hearing with members of the state Senate and Assembly at Ogdensburg City Hall today.

The Office of Mental Health plans to restructure inpatient services across the state by 2017. In St. Lawrence County, child inpatient care services will be moved to Utica and adult care services to Syracuse as part of a broad plan to create 15 regional centers of excellence. The sex offender program will remain in place.

Charles W. Kelly, St. Lawrence Task Force Chairman, says several community experts are expected to speak at the hearing on behalf of the community.

“We’ll have economic experts from the colleges and doctors with a background in mental health,” Mr. Kelly said. “We want speakers with expertise and personal accounts from patients and families, as well.”

The hearing will begin at 10 a.m. in the City Council chambers, 330 Ford St.

“We want to make sure the services we have here — as well as the jobs — are protected,” State Sen. Patricia A. Ritchie, R-Heuvelton said. “This hearing is an opportunity for community members to speak about the importance of the St. Lawrence Psych Center and share their stories of what the center means to them, and their loved ones.”

Assembly and Senate Standing Committees on Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities and the Senate Standing Committee on Health will be present.

Sen. David Carlucci, Chairman of Senate Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities Committee, said he will report feedback from the meeting to OMH officials.

“I am here to listen,” Sen. Carlucci said before taking a tour of the St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center Monday. “I want to learn as much as possible about how we can provide the best possible care for patients. I am also going to be considering the need for jobs and economic impacts.”

Mr. Carlucci said Ogdensburg is one of many stops on his tour of mental health centers across the state.

“We expect that geography is going to be a main concern for many,” he said. “We’re keeping an open mind, and we’re looking forward to hearing what the community has to say.”

The Office of Mental Health is expected to submit testimony in support of its plan at the meeting. The meeting is open to the public.

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