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OMH decision is shameful

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To The Editor:

It was mid-winter. The streets of Ogdensburg were covered in snow as police cars circled my son suffering from what would be his first psychotic episode. I’d been searching for him — frantic, fearful. That night was our introduction to the St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center. Over the years the fact that the SLPC was near was comforting to me. It determined where I would move-not too far just in case.

While the news that the state Office of Mental Health will be closing SLPC and the Children’s Unit didn’t surprise me, it did make me angry, sad, and feel vulnerable to the unknown. For over 100 years the north country’s mentally ill have been serviced by an inpatient facility staffed by caring people. Now those who suffer from a brain disease will be shipped to Syracuse if in need of inpatient care. Our children will be taken to Utica — Utica! How cruel. You’d think the experts would realize the importance of involving family when a loved one is suffering. But from their statement, saying they would provide “hospitality housing, discounted hotel arrangements, and web-based video conferencing,” it is obvious they are clueless. As a mother of a mentally ill son, none of that matters. What does matter is having a facility close by. When someone needs psychiatric services there is no time to wait. Factor in that drive on I-81 in the winter and it becomes even more evident that they really do not get us way up here on the Canadian border.

Now they are again making promises. I used to think when they did thatmaybe — maybe — they would come through with the work programs and safe and affordable housing but they never did. Just walk down our streets. It is obvious the promises made years back fell on deaf ears. Time will again be the judge. It’s kind of like waiting to see if the moon really is made of green cheese.

I encourage everyone to speak up. Add your voice to the conversation. “Like” the St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center Task Force on Facebook. If you think this does not affect you, understand that mental illness can hit anyone at any time. It is a disease. You can’t catch a mental illness. But you could find yourself out in the cold on a winter’s night searching for a loved one in a psychotic state. Syracuse is a long, long way away. Tell OMH it is too far!

Barbara Briggs Ward

Ogdensburg

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