To The Editor:
The members of Ogdensburg Firefighters IAFF Local 1799 seek to show our continued support for maintaining the level of services currently provided at the St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center. We understand that decisions have been made to further downsize our communitys state hospital and, given the pronounced impact a reduction in services will have on our community, we feel it is important to voice our concerns.
As professional firefighters, we have direct contact with mentally ill individuals in the performance of our daily duties, in particular in our EMS response. Observing patients firsthand during our mandated familiarity tours of the facilities at the SLPC, we gain perspective on the tremendous demand and value of the services provided by the SLPC.
While we do not profess to be experts in psychiatric care, in EMS response situations, we witness firsthand those we believe would be better served on an inpatient basis. Though more patients may assimilate if given the opportunity, in our line of work we see that many continue to struggle with psychiatric issues that are best served in a professional mental health setting.
Ogdensburg is the epitome of rural, the very definition of upstate. Our community is far removed from any central urban setting that would serve our mentally ill through a regional center of excellence. For many in our community, it would not be possible to receive the services and professional care they need if the SLPC were closed, leaving numerous individuals unable to adequately transition as outpatients. The impact on service providers such as EMS, fire, police, and medical professionals who are not adequately trained to deal with severe mental health issues would be significant, and not a productive use of these services.
In closing, we ask that the complete picture be examined before any further decisions are made to alter the services currently provided by the St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center. We respectfully ask for your genuine consideration to not only maintain, but to expand the exceptional care and services provided by the skilled and compassionate professionals of the SLPC that our community and region so desperately need.
On Behalf Of
Firefighters Local 1799