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Contractor pairs with Fort Drum to open behavioral health clinic in West Carthage

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WEST CARTHAGE — Fort Drum will move its off-post behavioral health care facility for active-duty military personnel to the village after contracting out for a new clinic in the Franklin Place Medical Building.

The new space and contractor will spell the end of the behavioral health clinic operated by Samaritan Medical Center at Coleman Avenue, Watertown. The clinic had been open since June 2008, when it was created in advance of a deployment of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team.

Krista A. Kittle, a spokeswoman for Samaritan Medical Center, Watertown, said that since its opening the clinic had worked with 3,000 patients and completed about 40,000 appointments.

The regional medical command, looking to change its contract to require filing through the Army’s emergency records system, had opened the entire contract for bidding.

The space will be operated by Spectrum Healthcare Resources, a division of TeamHealth, St. Louis, Mo., and will use space leased from Northern Developers LLC, according to a press release distributed Monday.

The new 3,335-square-foot office, which will be located in the former Family Practice Associates location, Franklin Avenue, is scheduled to open in the spring.

Though plans were for the bidding decision and implementation to be complete by Oct. 1, when its contract with Samaritan Medical Center ended, the contract was extended until March to allow the transition to be made to the West Carthage facility.

Ms. Kittle speculated the change of contractor boiled down to costs.

“It was a privilege to serve soldiers,” she said. “We’re very disappointed we weren’t selected moving forward.”

She said the hospital had provided information about leasing the Coleman Avenue building to Spectrum Healthcare Resources to keep continuity, but was rebuffed. Ms. Kittle said the hospital will find a new purpose for that space without the clinic.

“There probably will be another service that opens up that will be of use in that,” she said. “That building is beautiful.”

Ms. Kittle said all 11 of the clinic’s employees had been offered jobs by Spectrum at the new location.

Calls and emails to the public affairs office of the post’s Medical Command and to Spectrum Healthcare were not returned Monday.

Kent D. Burto, of Northern Developers LLC, said the Franklin Place Medical Building space had been out of use for about two years.

“It should bring more people into the community, and hopefully it helps businesses around here,” he said.

No information was available on how many patients the clinic could handle or how many people would be employed in the new space.

The post has been working to increase the number of outlets for soldiers to receive such care. As a part of its increased capacity, off-post facilities have been seen as a way for soldiers to receive different options for care and possibly receive more privacy.

In August, Col. Mark W. Thompson, commander of Fort Drum’s Army Medical Department Activity, said the post could handle about 70 percent of soldier behavioral health needs if demand remained steady. At that time, he said soldier demand had increased because of reduced stigma associated with seeking mental health care assistance.

Dr. Todd L. Benham, the post’s behavioral health chief, estimated that about 4,500 soldiers came in to its clinics in 2011.

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