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The mentally ill deserve outstanding care

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To The Editor:

Article XVII of the New York State Constitution is clear about the “public concern for the care of the poor.” It also states without any doubt that it is “a public concern to ensure access to health care for its citizens.” It is time for New York State to honor its own mandate. Ensuring access to comprehensive services for persons living with the challenges of mental illness is essential.

Catholic Charities collaborates with the inpatient and outpatient components of the St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center. SLPC is a critical part of the continuum of services within this community.

The north country is identified as an area in crisis in respect to mental health services. Extensive waiting lists force persons in need to wait for months for outpatient services.

Each year the budget for mental health services and programs is cut. To close SLPC creates a gap that will impact individuals and families who have a right of access to best practice services and programs. The hardship created, in terms of distance, that families and individuals will have to travel may prohibit them from participating in a coordinated treatment approach for their family member in inpatient services. This will impact the quality of treatment and recovery.

It has often been noted that New York State follows California when it comes to “megatrends.” California has already implemented a mental health system similar to the proposed model being marketed throughout New York State. The result has been negative in California. Safety nets were not put in place. Community support programs were not funded to the appropriate levels. Is this the model that New York wants to adopt?

It is obvious to everyone that the issue being address is the “bottom line,” not best practice services and programs for mental health consumers. Catholic Charities supports healthy business practices and the goal of a balanced state budget. Catholic Charities does not support achieving this goal at the expense of one of the most vulnerable populations.

Catholic Charities supports the St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center in its goal to be identified as a “center of excellence.”

Sister Donna Franklin, LCSW

Diocesan Director

Catholic Charities

Ogdensburg

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