OGDENSBURG The City Council passed a resolution Monday night supporting the continued operation of the St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center.
The move followed Mayor William D. Nelsons creation last week of a task force to support the center as a state Office of Mental Health Regional Center of Excellence. Proposals by the OMH to reduce the number of inpatient hospital beds statewide have furrowed the brows of north country leaders, who fear any further loss of jobs.
The city is calling upon elected officials to oppose any plan to close the center or reduce services there, as St. Lawrence County continues to face economic hardships from the loss of nearly 1,000 jobs because of the closure of the General Motors plant in Massena and the Newton Falls Fine Paper mill, and cuts at the zinc and talc mines in the Gouverneur area.
The St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center, which employees 520 people, provides residential programs for children, youth and adults as well as sex offender treatment.
It would be a hardship for residents to have to travel to facilities outside of the area, the citys resolution said.
Councilor Jennifer L. Stevenson said that while the potential economic impact to the county is a concern, the people who would lose services here if the center were cut have to be considered. The St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center is the only such facility in this part of the state; the next closest are Huchings Psychiatric Center in Syracuse and Mohawk Valley Psychiatric Center in Utica.
We have so many people in our community that are serviced and definitely need this closeness to any kind of services that they can get that it is just amazing that people would even consider leaving them behind, Ms. Stevenson said.
An Office of Mental Health forum dubbed a listening tour will be held from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesday in the Unity Center on the psychiatric center campus.
One of the points that must be made to OMH officials is the tremendous distance to find other services, Councilor R. Storm Cilley said.
The distances involved are just absolutely unrealistic, Mr. Cilley said.
Even though we do not have a large population, we need those services here.