Legislation Would Halt State Plans For Psych Center


The north country has a new weapon in its battle to save the St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center in Ogdensburg - legislation.

The measure would stop the state's plans to close the center's inpatient care facilities and give state mental health officials and community members additional time to seek alternatives.. 

The "Freeze Unsafe Closures Now Act" is jointly sponsored by Republican state Senators Patty Ritchie and Thomas Libous, who represents Broome, Tioga, Chenango and Delaware Counties.

Ritchie represents the 48th Senate District, which includes Ogdensburg.

"This bill is a way to force the state to take a step back so we can prevent the closing from happening," said Ritchie.

The state Office of Mental Health's plan was unveiled last summer and would shrink the state's system of 24 psychiatric hospitals to 15, with none located north or south of the state Thruway.

The bill would freeze that plan until at least 2015, giving state leaders more time to come up with other options.

So far there's no companion bill in the state Assembly, but Assemblywoman Addie Russell says there will be.

"This bill will take some of the pressure off and give us time to work on figuring out an alternative to what OMH has proposed," said Russell (D. - 116th Assembly District).

Under the existing plan, adult and children's inpatient treatment services at the St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center will be shifted to Syracuse and Utica beginning next year.

More than 500 local jobs would be affected under the plan.

Whatever the outcome of Ritchie's bill, it could build momentum leading up to a big meeting in Albany on December 10.

The task force fighting to save the psych center will deliver a message about the effect of forcing patients into expensive travel to Syracuse or Utica.

"Is this going to be another of New York state's unfunded mandates or is a family going to have to pay it? A family can't afford to pay it up here," said Chuck Kelly, task force chairman.


Friday, December 2, 2016
, Watertown, NY

On Demand

This content requires the latest Adobe Flash Player and a browser with JavaScript enabled. Click here for a free download of the latest Adobe Flash Player.

On Wall Street