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Psych Center has community’s support

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EDITOR’S NOTE:The following is a letter sent by St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center Task Force Chairman Charles W. Kelly on the task force’s behalf to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to advocate for the center. Local officials fear the center will be targeted for closure as the state Office of Mental Health readies to unveil a plan to downsize the number of inpatient psychiatric beds in the state. The plan is expected to be released Monday.

Dear Governor Cuomo:

Enclosed, please find an updated presentation binder from the St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center Task Force. This binder is a renewed and enhanced version of the document previously provided to you in May. Similar binders were also provided to Acting Commissioner Kristin M. Woodlock and state Office of Mental Health officials at the listening tour stop in Ogdensburg on May 15.

The original binder highlighted a number of key factors, including:

■ The unique range and quality of services provided at the St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center. One facility with children/youth, adult, sex offender treatment programs as well as an on-side OASAS Alcohol and Substance Abuse Treatment facility provides diversity of services that would make an excellent foundation for a regional center of excellence.

■ The leading role this facility has taken in establishing a continuum of care with a number of community-based organizations in the region. This track record of delivering mental health services in a rural setting could be a model for other areas of the state.

■ The potential and willingness of the universities and hospitals in the region to collaborate and cooperate with the St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center. As demonstrated both at the listening tour visit and within this binder, there is clearly the potential to form the educational affiliations and partnerships needed to develop this facility into a regional center of excellence.

■ The sheer size and distance of this region would make it a hardship and prohibitive for north country residents to utilize other OMH facilities in the state. As is pointed out on the cover of our binder, this is the only one of 24 OMH psychiatric centers located north of the Thruway communities. The size of the St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center’s catchment area (10,699 square miles) is an area larger than three of the current OMH state regions.

This updated version, of a copy of which we are also providing to Acting Commissioner Woodlock, now includes over 60 letters and resolutions of support for the St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center form communities, colleges and school districts, churches, development organizations, elected officials, hospitals, businesses, local residents throughout the north country. Additionally, there are copies of nearly three dozen news articles in the regional press in support of the center.

We appreciate the time and attention you are able to give this updated binder. We feel this document highlights the strengths of the St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center, clearly demonstrates the need for continued or expanded operations of the center, and gives an accurate representation of the importance of, and support for, this facility through our region.

Thank you, and please contact me with any questions or comments.

Charles W. “Chuck” Kelly

Chairman

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