St. Lawrence Psych Center To See No Job Losses...For Now

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It appears the St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center in Ogdensburg will see no job losses - at least for now - even though the state plans to move two treatment services out of the area.

The state Office of Mental Health unveiled its three year plan Wednesday.

The state wants to move inpatient services for children and adolescents to the psychiatric center in Marcy, near Utica.

Adult inpatient services would be be no longer offered in Ogdensburg; patients can choose to be treated at other facilities around the state.

Ogdensburg would keep its civil confinement facility for sex offenders.

There are currently 92 beds and 145 jobs in the sex offender treatment program.

Ogdensburg would continue to treat people on an outpatient basis.

More than 500 people work at the St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center.

It appears that jobs would be preserved by gradually closing inpatient wards over the next three years and creating new positions for outpatient services.

The state said employees would be offered training for different jobs as well as transfers to other state agencies.

But, Ogdensburg Mayor Bill Nelson isn't so sure.

"From what I see, there's a potential for a loss of jobs for our community which will have a devastating impact," he said.

Chuck Kelly, who chairs the St. Lawrence Psychiatric Task Force, called the news a "mixed bag."

He said he spoke directly with the state OMH (Office of Mental Health) commissioner, who told him no jobs would be immediately lost in Ogdensburg.

Kelly said he and the task force plan to meet with the commissioner next week.

"It might have a very bad effect here in St. Lawrence County if all these patients have to go to Utica, Syracuse or someplace else," he said.

The state's plan is not etched in stone.

State lawmakers are expected to have a significant say because they control funding for the Office of Mental Health.

The following is a statement from state Assembly member Addie Russell (D. - 116th District):

“The Office of Mental Health’s decision to no longer provide inpatient services at the St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center will have a detrimental impact on not only the patients and families who utilize the facility, but also the hardworking staff who provide these critical services. These few regional centers of excellence in Syracuse and Utica are not sufficiently close to the local populations that need them here.

“I’m also very concerned about any potential job losses not directly related to treatment. That’s why I will be advocating vigorously to try to retain the services that are currently at the psychiatric center. We should be maintaining the service levels here, if not expanding them. That will continue to be my push.”

The following is a statement from state Senator Patty Ritchie (R. - 48th District):

The no-layoff plan unveiled by the Office of Mental Health assures a continued role for the St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center in the delivery of mental health services to the North County community, and protects hundreds of jobs that are vital to the economy of this region. That much is known.

But there are a great many details of how this three-year plan will affect the Psych Center and the surrounding community that remain to be discovered. It's unclear exactly what the three-year transition to a "community service hub" will mean for the facility, its workforce of more than 550 professionals, or the hundreds of vendors, small businesses and area residents who rely on the Psych Center to support their livelihood or the provision of health care services.

I will continue to study the OMH plan, and engage members of the mental health care community, as well as civic and business leaders, to more fully measure the actual impact of this plan on Ogdensburg, St. Lawrence County and the entire region.

The Civil Service Employee Association issued the following statement:

CSEA today sharply criticized Gov. Andrew Cuomo's proposal to consolidate state psychiatric centers as vague, irresponsible and likely to cost local taxpayers.

"There is nothing of excellence in Governor Cuomo's proposal to close psychiatric centers, leave seriously ill people without the help they need and dump more unfunded mandates on local taxpayers," said CSEA President Danny Donohue. Cuomo's proposal renames remaining state psychiatric facilities as Centers of Excellence.

"Once again, the Cuomo administration is purposely misleading the public about the impact of his policies by packaging his proposal with a nice sounding name without providing any real detail about how services will be provided or supported," Donohue said.

There are not adequate services now and this plan does nothing to improve that.

By some estimates, more than half the inmates in county jails and correctional facilities have some form of mental illness. Many of these individuals wouldn't even be incarcerated if they could get the help and care they need in their community. Local taxpayers will continue to foot the bill and then some for the state's failure to ensure appropriate services in what amounts to an unfunded mandate.

See the state's plan (Ogdensburg is discussed on pages 43 and 44)

Thursday, October 30, 2014
, Watertown, NY

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