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Keep inpatient services in north country

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To The Editor:

To acting state Office of Mental Health Commissioner Kristin M. Woodlock:

For over 100 years, the St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center in Ogdensburg has served the mental health needs of the six northernmost counties in New York State. The Ogdensburg facility is, in fact, the only long-term mental health facility north of the state Thruway.

We here in the north country are used to traveling long distances, but for those in great need of long-term mental health care, a three-hour trip one way is not acceptable, nor is the same jaunt for families who support these patients and for whom visits then become a weekend away rather than an hour’s journey.

When planning for health care needs, centers of excellence would be wonderful hubs of health care, much like the One-Stop Career Centers, where individuals can receive a multiplicity of services related to their economic advancement under one roof.

The difference is, however, that patients – or “residents” – are often in crisis, in dire need, or in an emergency state and need an experienced and efficient staff at the ready. We have such a facility and we have an experienced and professional staff – with 100 years of practice – who can provide immediate care to people in our six counties in the snap of a finger.

We are a challenged region. The loss of these specialized services, coupled with the loss of 500 professional jobs and the shuttering of a fine facility, cannot be absorbed by St. Lawrence County and the other five we partner with.

On behalf of the St. Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce and the 800-member businesses we represent, I urge you to reconsider your decision to close the St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center; I urge you to remove the St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center from your list of closure sites. In fact, I urge you to modernize and expand services so that the health needs of this most rural region do not go unmet.

Pat McKeown,

Executive Director

St. Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce

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