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Psychiatric Center Task Force to continue work until center of excellence is installed

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OGDENSBURG — The St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center Task Force will continue meeting and organizing for the foreseeable future to ensure the smooth transformation of the psychiatric center into a center of excellence.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced in December that the center would become the Children’s Behavioral Health Center of Excellence for the North Country, focusing on child mental health services.

While the adult inpatient facility will see its capacity reduced from 65 to 40 beds Mr. Cuomo said the state will add 50 outpatient beds to the north country to help meet the mental health needs of the region.

The announcement by Mr. Cuomo ended months of uncertainty over the future of the center after the state Office of Mental Health proposed closing the facility.

Task Force Chairman Charles W. Kelly said, “The task force thought (staying active) was a good idea so we could do the leg work for” the state.

Mr. Kelly, speaking at a meeting Tuesday, said the task force will monitor the implementation of the transition to ensure the community’s needs are protected.

The task force will continue meeting monthly until it feels its work is done, Mr. Kelly said.

Although the task force plans to continue operating, Mr. Kelly also used Tuesday’s meeting to thank everyone involved who helped reverse the decision to close the center.

“We could not have accomplished what we did without everyone,” he said. “Everybody had a job to do and everybody did it well.”

Mayor William D. Nelson said, “This was like a well-oiled machine,” before commending Mr. Kelly for his work as chairman.

Mr. Nelson said he believes the task force made the right move in speaking from the heart and meeting personally with Mr. Cuomo. “I was never so proud in my life,” he said.

Virginia E. Davey, local president of the Public Employees Federation, said, “It just brings tears to my eye. What you did was incredible.”

Mrs. Davey said she wished everyone could have been with the center’s employees when they found out that their jobs had been saved. “The people there are so grateful.”

Jamie Dafoe Weber, who has a child who has used the psychiatric center’s services several times and who organized an online petition to save the center, said she “couldn’t be more proud of being a part of this group.”

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