Local Officials Say State Plan Would Gut Psych Center

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The state says there won't be any job losses when the St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center's adult and children and youth services inpatient wards are phased out over the next three years and relocated downstate.

But there are a lot of skeptics who don't think that will be the case.

"I'm concerned. Three of the five bullet points that the acting commissioner included in her plan talk about jobs moving out of the area. Having individuals, having families, having people leave the north country does not contribute to our economic vitality," said Patrick Kelly of the St. Lawrence County Industrial Development Agency.

The psychiatric center employs more than 500 workers, some of whom may continue to work in Ogdensburg through a new community services outpatient hub.

Other workers will be given the option of relocating to another state facility or be retrained for another job in a different location - jobs that will be forced to leave the north country.
 
State lawmakers also may have a say in how the reorganizational plan is implemented and whether revisions can or will be made.
 
Also of concern is what will happen to the existing buildings on the psych center's grounds and whether they will be left vacant to fall victim to decay and deterioration.
 
A number of abandoned buildings from past downsizings remain as rotting skeletons ignored by the state.
 
For now the full impact on jobs and services remains cloudy.

"I believe it's going to take a significant amount of work to change the plan and that the proper place is going to be during budget negotiations," said state Assemblywoman Addie Russell (D. - 116th District).
 
Officials say the North Country Regional Economic Development Council may be asked next month to take a position urging the state to revise its plan to maintain or expand existing services at the local psychiatric center rather than essentially closing it.
 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014
, Watertown, NY

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