Crowd Speaks Out Against Changes For Psych Center
Laura Farr came to the state legislative mental health hearing Tuesday to let lawmakers know how important the St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center was to her and her mental health needs.
"They literally saved my life," she said.
More than 100 people attended the nearly five-hour long joint Assembly and Senate hearing in Ogdensburg.
More than three dozen people spoke out against the state Office of Mental Health's three year plan that guts the inpatient mental health treatment services for children and adults at the local psychiatric center and relocates them to downstate Centers of Excellence in Syracuse and Utica.
"We have no business allowing the governor to close the facility and leave mental health care in the north country in the lurch," said Colleen Wheaton, CSEA Central Region 5 president.
Some speakers even went as far as to describe the state's plan as nothing more than geographic and economic discrimination.
"It is an unconscionable, poorly conceived plan that will do irreversible harm to those that it purports to serve," said Storm Cilley, Ogdensburg City Council member.
Local officials say the state's mental health restructuring plan will make economically challenged north country families face hardships.
"To go to Utica, it'll be $200 each way, so it's going to be $450. Who's going to pay that? Is the family going to pay it? Is the state going to pay it," said Chuck Kelly, task force chairman.
Senate Mental Health Committee Chair David Carlucci says it's still to early to say how the proposed changes will play out.
"I think we have to take into consideration people's travel times here in the north country," he said.
Local officials say they won't give up trying to convince the Cuomo administration to not shortchange the area but instead, keep services intact making the psychiatric center a Center of Excellence itself.