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Ritchie asks state to lengthen time of psych center listening tour stop

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State Senator Patricia A. Ritchie, R-Heuvelton, is urging Albany officials to extend next week’s “listening session” on the future of St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center in order to give north country community members more time to express their support for the facility.

The psychiatric center is the only full-service mental health facility north of the Thruway and employs over 500 local residents.

In a letter sent to the state’s acting mental health commissioner, Mrs. Ritchie objected to a two-hour time limit for next week’s “listening session,” to be held at the facility’s Unity Center May 15 from 10 a.m. to noon, when similar sessions were allotted more time.

“With more than 100 local residents already signed up to attend, I am concerned that the compressed time frame won’t be sufficient to allow state officials to fully gauge the community’s support for the St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center,” Mrs. Ritchie said in a news release.

The Ogdensburg listening session is the last of 12 being held across the state to collect the public’s comments on a plan that could result in consolidation and reduced services at some of the state’s mental health facilities.

With the exception of Ogdensburg’s, all of the sessions are scheduled to stretch at least 2-1/2 hours. The Orangeburg, Binghamton, Rochester, Buffalo, Long Island and New York City visits were each three hours. And the Office of Mental Health scheduled two sessions in each Albany and Syracuse.

Mrs. Ritchie also said she was concerned that holding the Ogdensburg session in the middle of the workday might suppress public turnout. Sessions in some other communities were held after regular working hours.

Mrs. Ritchie has been working with the local community leaders to try to increase public awareness of the event. Toward that end, she convened a meeting last week in her office to strategize on ways to boost participation.

She urged community members to register online to attend the session, at http://www.omh.ny.gov/omhweb/excellence/registration.html.

A copy of her letter to the commissioner can be found at: http://www.scribd.com/doc/139730523/Letter-to-Acting-Comm-Woodcock.

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