Governor Andrews Cuomo called it a "big win for the north country."

He announced Thursday that the St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center will keep its inpatient services and even become a Regional Center of Excellence.

Governor Cuomo made the announcement through a video conference Thursday which was seen at the psychiatric center in Ogdensburg.

Cuomo said the center will lose about 20 inpatient beds, but it will gain more outpatient services.

It's unclear what that means in terms of jobs.

The psychiatric center employs more than 500 workers.

Under a revised plan, the state will establish a specialized, state-of-the-art Children's Behavioral Health Center of Excellence (CBHCE) at the center.

The state plans to keep 68 beds in the facility, including 28 children and adolescent beds.

The center will continue the operation of essential programs including the children's clinic and day treatment program, the Sex Offender Management and Treatment Act program, the OASAS Alcohol Treatment Center, Northwoods Residential and State community programs located off campus.

The original plan called for the elimination of all 65 adult beds and 28 children and adolescent beds.

In addition to maintaining 68 beds at the facility, 50 community residential beds will be established.

A reduction of one adult ward will achieve $3 million in savings which will be reinvested in the CBHCE, which will include:

· 28 beds in the facility
· Increased clinic capacity and access in targeted communities
· An expanded Day Treatment program which would increase the number of existing classrooms
· A new Mobile Integration Team to respond to calls from schools, families, and pediatric services to provide assessment, consultation, first line treatment, and linkages to services
· Expanded tele-psychiatry to improve access in rural settings and provide comprehensive assessments to facilitate connection to the most appropriate level of care (such as forensic/violence assessments, juvenile sex offender evaluation, psychological assessment for educational services)
· Evidenced-based treatment services at all sites including dialectical behavioral therapy, cognitive behavior therapy, and multi-systemic therapy along with state of the art family based interventions to improve outcomes and increase youth's resiliency.

New adult community-based services and programs made possible by the reinvestment also include:

· Expanded Mobile Crisis and Support capacity with first episode psychosis and peer support capacity to provide assessment, consultation, first line treatment, and linkages to services. In addition, this team will provide case management like services to individuals struggling to maintain community tenure
· Increased clinic capacity and access in targeted counties
· A new community mental health forensic program to develop and manage pretrial release plans for seriously mentally ill persons entering jails in the North Country
· Expand tele-psychiatry to improve access in rural settings
· Expand community access to the 24 bed Northwoods residential program for community hospitals to use as step-down units

The future of the psychiatric center has been in doubt since the state Office of Mental Health announced a reorganization plan earlier this year.

Cuomo met last week with a task force trying to save the psychiatric center and the hundreds of jobs it provides to the Ogdensburg area.

During the video conference, Cuomo applauded the task force for its work.

The state announced plans in July to shut down both the adult and youth in-patient wings at the psychiatric center over the next three years, shifting those services to Syracuse and the Utica area.

At the time, the State Office of Mental Health said employment would not be affected, which puzzled Ogdensburg leaders, who were highly skeptical - to say the least - that switching to an "outpatient only" center would keep all the jobs intact.

A long sought meeting between the task force trying to save the psychiatric center and top Cuomo staffers took place last week, and Cuomo himself showed up at the end, listened and said he would have more to say this week.

After hearing Cuomo's announcement, the chair of the task force, Chuck Kelly, said, "I wish I had a nickle four every person who was telling me I was wasting my time."

In a news release, state Senator Patty Ritchie (R. - 48th District) said, "This entire process shined a bright light on the issue of mental health, how it impacts families and neighbors, and the valuable programs and services that are offered at this facility. We have taken the issue of mental health care out of the shadows-and raised not only awareness, but support from this community, as well.  The St. Lawrence Psych Center is a Center of Excellence because this community made it that way."

"The hard work of the St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center Task Force and of families and employees of the Center are to be commended for their tireless work in making a strong case to the administration that the Center should remain open to provide vital services to the North Country community," said state Assemblywoman Addie Russell (D. - 116th District) in a news release.

"Keeping the St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center open is the best outcome possible, and I applaud Governor Cuomo for once again making the North Country's needs one of his top priorities," Congressman Bill Owens (D. - 21st District) said in a news release.

No further implementation of the Regional Centers of Excellence plan will take place until OMH, in consultation with the community and mental health advocates, evaluate the effectiveness of the expanded community services on the need for inpatient beds.
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